21 straight!

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE SHEININ

The In­di­ans beat Detroit to ex­tend base­ball’s long­est win­ning streak in 82 years and the long­est in Amer­i­can League his­tory.

cleve­land — The Streak, now 21 games old and grow­ing, is a liv­ing, breath­ing thing, mak­ing his­tory, claim­ing new vic­tims, suck­ing in all the oxy­gen in base­ball. By now, it likely has its own Twit­ter feed. It is gazed upon with as­ton­ish­ment from all cor­ners of the coun­try and cel­e­brated in all cor­ners of Cleve­land, save for a roughly 60-foot-by-60-foot square of lush, car­peted, cherry wood­pan­eled room in the bow­els of Pro­gres­sive Field where the Cleve­land In­di­ans make their home for 81 games each year.

With a 5-3 vic­tory Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon over the Detroit Tigers, the In­di­ans have the long­est win­ning streak in Amer­i­can League his­tory and the long­est in base­ball in 82 years. Their 21st straight win pushed them past the 2002 Oak­land A’s, who won 20 straight, and tied them with the 1935 Chicago Cubs for the long­est in the sport’s mod­ern era (not count­ing the 26 straight wins, in­ter­rupted by a tie, of the 1916 New York Gi­ants).

Win No. 21 — spelled out, it looks like this: WWW WWW WWW WWW WWW WWW WWW— came cour­tesy of 52/ in­nings of

3 ef­fec­tive pitch­ing from In­di­ans starter Mike Clevinger, who sports a 4-0 record and 0.38 ERA over the course of the streak; 31/ spot­less

3 in­nings from a quar­tet of re­liev­ers out of their su­perb bullpen; and timely home runs from Jay Bruce and Roberto Perez, the for­mer an Au­gust trade ac­qui­si­tion, the lat­ter a backup catcher bat­ting .219.

As closer Cody Allen col­lected the fi­nal outs, a crowd of 29,346, day-drunk on wins, stood and roared its ap­proval. On Thurs­day,

the In­di­ans will host the Kansas City Roy­als with a chance to stand alone with 22 straight wins.

The last time the In­di­ans lost a game, on Aug. 23, Hur­ri­cane Har­vey was still churn­ing off the Gulf of Mex­ico and was two days from mak­ing land­fall in Texas. The cover of Sports Il­lus­trated on news­stands that week was ask­ing whether the 2017 Los An­ge­les Dodgers were the best team ever. In­di­ans out­fielder Greg Allen was still nine days away from mak­ing his big league de­but; nearly two weeks into his ca­reer, he has yet to know what it feels like to lose in the ma­jors.

“They’re en­joy­ing them­selves,” In­di­ans Man­ager Terry Fran­cona said of his play­ers. “And they should. It’s pretty spe­cial.”

But that is about as close as any­one wear­ing an In­di­ans uni­form will get to ac­knowl­edg­ing what the rest of base­ball is ob­sess­ing over: a streak that is re­mark­able not just for its length but for the sheer daily dom­i­nance it puts on dis­play, per­haps shown most ex­plic­itly in the plus-104 run dif­fer­en­tial the In­di­ans have man­aged dur­ing its course. They have a 1.57 team ERA and a .939 on­base-plus-slug­ging per­cent­age dur­ing the streak, and their bullpen hasn’t al­lowed a run in nine days.

The daily game of re­porters try- ing to bait the In­di­ans into talk­ing about The Streak in breath­less, as­ton­ished sound bites has be­come al­most com­i­cal. It’s as if the In­di­ans have im­posed an in­ter­nal fine sys­tem where­upon a player or staff mem­ber is docked ev­ery time they ut­ter the word “streak.”

“I feel like we’re just show­ing up on the field to play,” Clevinger said. “It doesn’t feel like we’re go­ing af­ter some­thing, other than that same goal to fin­ish Oc­to­ber on top.”

When some­one asked Bruce whether the team’s ac­com­plish­ment has sunk in, he fired back: “Ab­so­lutely not. We’re so fo­cused. Ev­ery­one talks about the streak” — oops, that’s a fine! — “and be­ing con­sumed with it, but what con­sumes us is the daily sched­ule and the game we have to get ready for. . . . Our fo­cus tends to stay so right where we are and then move to the next and then move to the next.

“We don’t have time to worry about what hap­pened in the past, and we def­i­nitely don’t have time to worry about what could hap­pen in the fu­ture.”

On Wed­nes­day, when Clevinger put the In­di­ans in a 1-0 hole in the top of the first, it was the first time they had trailed since Satur­day. But by the time the in­ning was over, they led 3-1, thanks to Bruce’s three-run homer in the bot­tom half, which kept alive one of the most stun­ning stats from the streak: In 189 in­nings dur­ing th­ese past 21 games, the In­di­ans have still trailed at the end of only four.

“I don’t think there was a sec­ond that I doubted we were go­ing to score some runs,” Clevinger said, “or string to­gether some hits. I wasn’t just wish­ing we were go­ing to score. I kind of knew that we were go­ing to score and what was I go­ing to do to keep [Detroit’s run to­tal] where it is.”

Ev­ery­one knew the 2017 In­di­ans had the chance to be sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter than the team that pushed the Cubs all the way to the 10th in­ning of Game 7 of the World Se­ries 11 months ago be­fore fall­ing. That team had to make do in Oc­to­ber with­out its Nos. 2 and 3 start­ing pitch­ers, Car­los Car­rasco and Danny Salazar, as well as No. 3 hit­ter Michael Brant­ley — whom Fran­cona has called “the heart and soul of the team” — and had not yet signed (in De­cem­ber) free agent slug­ger Ed­win En­car­na­cion or traded (last month) for out­fielder Bruce, who have held down the fourth and fifth spots in the lineup since their ar­rivals.

At times, as when Trevor Bauer sliced up his hand while re­pair­ing a drone on a day off, the In­di­ans’ post­sea­son ro­ta­tion seemed to con­sist of ace Corey Klu­ber and which­ever other pitch­ers were able to raise their arms above their heads on a given day.

But this year, Klu­ber not only is the fa­vorite to win the AL Cy Young Award, but Bauer and Car­rasco are a com­bined 31-14, and Clevinger has pitched him­self into the post­sea­son ro­ta­tion.

One ma­jor league scout in at­ten­dance this week, asked for his as­sess­ment of the In­di­ans on Wed­nes­day, chuck­led and said, “They’re un­be­liev­able. I mean, I don’t see a weak­ness. They can beat you in so many dif­fer­ent ways.”

Equally scary is the fact the In­di­ans are play­ing at about 85 per­cent their full ca­pac­ity th­ese days. All 21 wins of the streak have been achieved with­out the ser­vices of their pri­mary lead­off and No. 3 hit­ters, Jason Kip­nis and Brant­ley, as well as lefty An­drew Miller, the ace of their bullpen. All are work­ing them­selves back from in­juries, with Miller set to re­join the team this week, just in time to get back up to speed for the post­sea­son.

A 21-game win­ning streak, of course, gets you noth­ing be­sides those 21 wins. The only other team since 1900 to win 21 straight, the 1935 Cubs, lost in the World Se­ries. The last team to win 20 straight, the 2002 Oak­land A’s, flamed out in the di­vi­sion se­ries, while the Ana­heim An­gels, a wild-card team who had fin­ished four games be­hind Oak­land in the AL West, went on to win the World Se­ries. Mean­while, Man­ager John McGraw’s 1916 Gi­ants went 86-66 and fin­ished fourth in the eight-team Na­tional League.

Of all the peo­ple to ask which streak should count as the record — the 1935 Cubs’ 21 straight, or the 1916 Gi­ants’ run of 26 wins and a tie across 27 games — Fran­cona was per­haps the least likely to give an in­formed opin­ion. And yet some­one tried Wed­nes­day.

“I wasn’t there,” Fran­cona, 58, dead­panned. “I have given that zero thought, I prom­ise you.”

In the me­dia, in the stands and in other cor­ners of the game, The Streak may be a thing to gaze upon and ad­mire, but to the In­di­ans it is not one big crea­ture but 21 tiny ones, each rep­re­sent­ing a day when they showed up to work, did their jobs well and for­got about it be­cause there would be an­other game to­mor­row.

JASON MILLER/GETTY IMAGES

RON SCHWANE/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In­di­ans fans strike a pose Wed­nes­day af­ter their team ex­tended its AL-record win­ning streak to 21 games by top­ping Detroit, 5-3.

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