When the Indians left the field Sunday having squandered another comeback opportunity against the Twins, they officially dropped their sixth game in a row. That’s not an uncommon occurrence in baseball, but for a team like the Indians that hasn’t had a losing season in over half a decade and has enjoyed one of the highest winning percentages in baseball since Terry Francona took over, it does not happen very often.
The last time the Indians lost six consecutive games was in 2015; the before-time, the long long ago. Francisco Lindor was barely a rookie, the idea of Cleveland winning a championship was absurd, and the Indians hadn’t been in the playoffs since that fateful Wild Card game two years prior. Sports Illustrated picked them as preseason World Series favorites, but there was little hope of a playoff run left by the halfway point of the season.
The 2015 Indians were ultimately a disappointment and the low came in late July when they were swept by the White Sox and dropped the first two games to the Royals (more on the series finale in a bit). It culminated in a six-game losing streak, and while they were already 12.0 games back of the eventual World Series champion Royals before the skid, it certainly didn’t feel good at the time.
Like the 2020 Indians, the 2015 squad’s offense was a tough watch. Four of the six games in the losing streak featured Mike Aviles in a starting role; he played three different positions.
Brandon Moss, who has since retired, was the right fielder.
David Murphy as the designated hitter was one of the highlights and would spend the next month generating trade rumors.
A young Francisco Lindor still looked like a defensive-first shortstop, though there were hints of what he could truly do.
Giovanny Urshela was a black hole on defense, sucking in baseballs hit anywhere near him for outs — he was also a black hole at the plate.
This series was one of the few times Jesus Aguilar got a look in Cleveland. He started three games and went 2-for-9.
Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn hadn’t been salary dumped to the Braves yet.
The bright spots on offense were Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley in their primes. Brantley had not yet injured his shoulder in Minnesota and was in the midst of enjoying back-to-back stellar offensive seasons. Kipnis had finally cooled off from his Bondsian month of May, but 2015 was still easily his best season, even with only nine home runs.
Even though the rotation featured Corey Kluber and his 2014 Cy Young Award, it hadn’t quite formed into the juggernaut we know today. Kluber started one of the six losses, as did Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Cody Anderson. Trevor Bauer started two of them, including the final loss in which he pitched a complete game with six strikeouts and only two earned runs (the Indians lost in the all-too-familiar fashion of a 2-1 game).
Overall, the Indians were only shutout once in the streak, but they were held to three or fewer runs in all but one of the six losses.
Depressingly enough, despite having virtually no expectations or true World Series aspirations at the time, the 2015 offense was better at the start of their losing streak than the 2020 Indians were at the start of theirs. Not much by much, but enough.
- 2015: .250/.324/.387, 93 wRC+
- 2020: .228/.323/.364, 86 wRC+
The biggest difference — and the only reason why the 2015 Indians were below .500 and the 2020 Indians are not — is that the current pitching staff is out of this world.
The 2015 losing streak was finally snapped in the series finale against the Royals. The Indians unleashed a cathartic explosion of 12 runs off Jeremy Guthrie and Luke Hocevar, while Corey Kluber pitched a complete game (the second in a row for Tribe starters). Lindor knocked in four runs himself, while Yan Gomes added three. Even Tyler Holt got a start and a hit.
It was merely a 2-0 lead for the majority of the game. That is until the Indians scored six runs in the sixth inning with homers from Urshela, Brantley, and Lindor. This was also the game that Lindor officially shed his prospect status as he crossed 150 at-bats (shout out to mcrose in the game recap for pointing that out). They added four more in the eighth for good measure and shut the door on a miserable week of baseball.
Tonight the Indians have a shot at the same catharsis when they face the Cubs. Not only could they snap their longest losing streak in half a decade, but they could exorcise some demons from their last disastrous series against Chicago.
Should they fail and fall to seven in a row, we would be looking at lows not reached since the Acta administration.
Please don’t make me dig back there.