In­di­ans clinch sec­ond straight AL Cen­tral ti­tle

Lethbridge Herald - - HEADLINE SPORTS | WEATHER - Tom Withers

Fran­cisco Lin­dor planned to pour a bot­tle of water over his head. On Sun­day, he’ll switch to cham­pagne.

For the sec­ond year in a row, the Cleve­land In­di­ans are AL Cen­tral cham­pi­ons.

A few hours af­ter they beat Kansas City 8-4 in the first game since the Roy­als stopped their AL record win­ning streak at 22, the In­di­ans clinched the di­vi­sion ti­tle when sec­ond-place Min­nesota lost to Toronto.

When their sec­ond crown be­came of­fi­cial, the In­di­ans were long gone from Pro­gres­sive Field, leav­ing the ball­park to spend time with fam­ily or toast a mem­o­rable week. In Lin­dor’s case, he was set to eat pizza and watch the box­ing match be­tween Gen­nady Golovkin and Canelo Al­varez.

Lin­dor said if the Twins lost he would dump water on him­self be­fore fo­cus­ing on the fight.

The bout fig­ured to be close. The In­di­ans knocked out the Twins, Roy­als, Tigers and White Sox.

But a di­vi­sion crown is only the first step for the In­di­ans, whose mis­sion is to win the World Se­ries af­ter com­ing so close last year. From the mo­ment they lost to the Chicago Cubs in seven games, the In­di­ans have been fo­cused on get­ting back. Cleve­land hasn’t won a Se­ries ti­tle since 1948, base­ball’s long­est drought.

“Our goal is to go out there and win games and make it to the post-sea­son and make it as far as we can in the post­sea­son,” said Lin­dor, who set a club record by get­ting an ex­tra­base hit in his 10th straight game. “That’s our goal. It doesn’t mat­ter what I do or what we did in the past.”

Man­ager Terry Fran­cona’s team will fi­nally get to spray cham­pagne in­side its own park fol­low­ing Sun­day’s se­ries fi­nale. Last year, Cleve­land won the di­vi­sion and ended two play­off se­ries on the road, so this year’s cel­e­bra­tion is long over­due.

This is the In­di­ans’ ninth Cen­tral ti­tle and the first time they’ve won con­sec­u­tive di­vi­sion ti­tles since 1999, when they fin­ished a run of five straight first-place fin­ishes with dom­i­nant teams. None of those teams won the Se­ries, ei­ther.

While Cleve­land’s his­toric win­ning streak is no longer the talk of base­ball, Lin­dor’s on a per­sonal roll that’s be­come no­table.

The All-Star’s dou­ble in the sixth off Ja­son Ham­mel (8-12) gave him an ex­tra-base hit in 10 straight games — a club record and four shy of the ma­jor league mark of 14, shared by Chip­per Jones (2006) and Paul Waner (1927).

“I didn’t even know that,” Lin­dor said. “I saw it on the score­board.”

Car­los Car­rasco (16-6) pitched into the sev­enth and Ed­win En­car­na­cion hit his 35th homer as the In­di­ans im­proved to 32-5 in their last 37 games.

Alex Gor­don con­nected for the Roy­als, whose wild-card hopes took an­other blow and couldn’t stay close to the In­di­ans.

“They’re all hot,” Ham­mel said. “There’s a good rea­son they’re go­ing to be wrap­ping it up.”

Fol­low­ing Fri­day’s 4-3 loss, the In­di­ans were warmly saluted by their fans, who and gave them a rous­ing stand­ing ova­tion in ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the long­est win streak base­ball has seen since the 1916 New York Giants won 26 in a row.

No doubt the streak was fun, but it served as lit­tle more than a Septem­ber di­ver­sion for th­ese In­di­ans.

“I was happy about that,” Fran­cona said of his team’s abil­ity to re­bound. “I didn’t think we wouldn’t, but it’s nice to see them go right back to try­ing to be as good of a team as we can be.”

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