Cleve­land’s record ride

Chas­ing a record win­ning streak, team is 30-5 since trad­ing for slug­ger Bruce

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - SPORTS - TOM WITHERS

CLEVE­LAND — Just a lit­tle more than a month ago, Jay Bruce was in New York sink­ing with the Mets as a sea­son that be­gan with prom­ise and a richness of pitch­ing was un­der­mined by in­juries.

The plunge was dra­matic. So was the rise.

Atraderes­cuedBruce­and­dropped him in Cleve­land, where he made his­tory on Wed­nes­day.

“I pretty much went from the least fun sit­u­a­tion in base­ball to the most fun,” he said.

Bruce hit a three-run homer in the first in­ning as the In­di­ans set the AL record with their 21st straight win, a 5-3 vic­tory over the Detroit Tigers that pushed Cleve­land closer to an­other divi­sion ti­tle and within reach of a 101-year mark that has come un­der scru­tiny be­cause of a pe­cu­liar­ity.

Un­beaten and nearly un­chal­lenged for three weeks, the In­di­ans sur­passed the Money­ball 2002 Oak­land Athletics for the league record and tied the 1935 Chicago Cubs for the sec­ond long­est streak since 1900.

The only team to win more con­sec­u­tive games was the 1916 New York Giants, who won 12 in a row, played a tie that was ended by rain and re­played, and then won 14 more.

De­spite the tie, the Giants’ streak is ac­knowl­edged as the record by Elias Sports Bureau, Ma­jor League’s Base­ball’s sta­tis­ti­cal watch­dog. The flaw in the record has per­turbed some fans. Not the In­di­ans.

“I’ve given that zero thought,” man­ager Terry Fran­cona said when asked if he re­garded 21 or 26 as the record. “I prom­ise you I’ve given it no thought.”

That’s been the at­ti­tude of his play­ers, who have gone 21-0 with min­i­mal cel­e­brat­ing. When closer Cody Allen got the fi­nal out, re­tir­ing Ian Kinsler on a sink­ing liner to left field, the 29,000 fans who hung on ev­ery pitch in­side Pro­gres­sive Field as if it was Game 7 of the World Se­ries, erupted as flames shot from over the cen­tre-field wall and fire­works ex­ploded over­head.

The In­di­ans didn’t mob each other or carry on as if it was a big deal. They’ve got more im­por­tant games — and hope­fully vic­to­ries — ahead of them. Cleve­land’s first World Se­ries ti­tle since 1948 re­mains the only goal for a team built to win.

“We don’t have time to worry about what hap­pened in the past and we def­i­nitely don’t have any time to worry about what’s go­ing to hap­pen in the fu­ture,” Bruce said. “We have a group of guys here, coach­ing staff and just a whole or­ga­ni­za­tion that kind of echoes that sen­ti­ment. It’s some­thing that we haven’t had to deal with and there’s been no pulling the reins back on peo­ple or hey, let’s not get ahead of our­selves.

“Ev­ery­one comes here and gets ready to play and I think that’s some­thing that speaks vol­umes.”

Af­ter the Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first off Mike Clevinger (10-5), Bruce put Cleve­land back on top for good with his three-run shot into the left-field bleach­ers. It was his 34th homer this sea­son and fifth with the In­di­ans, who ac­quired him on Aug. 9, an all-in move ne­ces­si­tated by All-Star Michael Brant­ley go­ing on the dis­abled list with a se­ri­ous an­kle in­jury.

Bruce has pro­vided pro­tec­tion for Cleve­land slug­ger Ed­win En­car­na­cion and given Fran­cona even more depth in a lineup with no ap­par­ent holes.

“Youmakeamis­take­and­he­knows what to do with it,” Fran­cona said.

When he met with re­porters fol­low­ing the In­di­ans’ his­toric win, Bruce wore a red T-shirt with Cleve­land’s con­tro­ver­sial smil­ing Chief Wa­hoo em­bla­zoned on the front. There were mo­ments when Bruce beamed just as brightly.

He’ll be a free agent af­ter the sea­son, but any thoughts about his fu­ture are on hold as he sa­vors be­ing on a team ex­pected to play deep into Oc­to­ber.

The In­di­ans are 30-5 since Bruce ar­rived, and that may not be co­in­ci­dence. He joked about “some se­lec­tion bias” when asked if he’s changed the club’s for­tunes.

“In all hon­esty, I feel like I do add some­thing pos­i­tive to this team,” he said. “This team has added some­thing to me as well. It gives you a lit­tle boost. You come in, you’re ready to play, you want to come to the ball­park, and you’re com­ing into some­thing that is big­ger than your­self.”

Af­ter the In­di­ans matched Oak­land’s 15-year-old record with their 20th straight win Tues­day night, Bruce texted with Scott Hat­te­berg, a mem­ber of that cel­e­brated A’s team that flopped in the post-sea­son but gained fame in film. They were briefly team­mates in Cincin­nati.

“I just said, ‘Who would’ve thought?’ ” Bruce re­called. “And he said, ‘Good luck, win an­other one and win a ring.’ ”

JA­SON MILLER/GETTY IMAGES

Cleve­land team­mates Fran­cisco Lin­dor, left, and Jay Bruce cel­e­brate af­ter de­feat­ing the Tigers on Wed­nes­day to win their 21st straight game.

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