In­di­ans be­come beloved in record win­ning streak

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS - Bob Night­en­gale bnighten@us­ato­day.com USA TO­DAY Sports BOB NIGHT­EN­GALE @BNight­en­gale for base­ball com­men­tary and break­ing news.

They have be­come Amer­ica’s team, those lov­able Cleve­land In­di­ans.

They win 21 games in a row, the most by any team in Amer­i­can League his­tory, and we want the streak to keep go­ing.

We see empty seats at Ja­cobs Field, and we want them all filled.

We lis­ten to man­ager Terry Fran­cona’s self-dep­re­cat­ing hu­mor, the front of­fice’s wit, the un­bri­dled pas­sion of Fran­cisco Lin­dor, and don’t want them to stop talk­ing.

It’s Cleve­land baby, the epi­cen­ter of base­ball.

Even con­tro­versy.

Who else but the In­di­ans could win 21 games in a row, knock­ing off the Detroit Tigers 5-3, only to be em­broiled in con­tro­versy about whether they have tied a ma­jor league record?

The 1935 Chicago Cubs are the only other team in base­ball his­tory that have ever won 21 con­sec­u­tive games, but Elias Sports Bureau now says the 1916 New York Gi­ants have the record. They won 26 games in a row, but there was a tie af­ter their 12th con­sec­u­tive win.

No of­fense to Elias, but that’s not the long­est win­ning streak. It’s the long­est un­beaten streak.

Don’t dare try to take any piece of joy away from the In­di­ans.

“I think they’re en­joy­ing them­selves,” Fran­cona said. “They should. It’s pretty spe­cial.” This is your time, Cleve­land. If peo­ple want to chas­tise you for not sell­ing out any games dur­ing the streak, re­mind ev­ery­one that this is a blue-col­lar city. School is in ses­sion. Be­sides, you had a stun­ning walkup crowd of nearly 10,000 fans Wed­nes­day for an af­ter­noon game on a school day, draw­ing 29,346.

What the In­di­ans are do­ing th­ese days is pre­pos­ter­ous. They have gone three en­tire weeks with­out los­ing a game. They’ve won as many games dur­ing this streak as the Cleve­land Browns have won since Nov. 20, 2011.

Th­ese guys have es­tab­lished them­selves as the best team in base­ball and need only Oc­to­ber to prove it, fi­nally end­ing their 69-year drought.

The In­di­ans are as lik­able as any team in base­ball, with a joy­ous close-knit club­house.

It was ear­lier this year when team President Chris An­tonetti was asked how long it took for him to get over los­ing Game 7 — and a 3-1 World Se­ries lead — to the Cubs.

“I’ll let you know,” An­tonetti said, “when I do.”

We can sym­pa­thize and root for them rather than the big-mar­ket be­he­moths that will dot the play­off land­scape. Amer­ica’s Team, right?

“It feels that way, from my van­tage point,” In­di­ans out­fielder Jay Bruce, who hit a three-run homer Wed­nes­day, told USA TO­DAY Sports. “I don’t have the pulse of it all, but this fan base here is mak­ing it feel like Oc­to­ber. It’s easy to come to the park. Peo­ple are thanking us.

“We are just do­ing what we can to play good ball and per­form for an awe­some group of peo­ple who fol­low us.”

You know you’re liv­ing large when Ohio’s most fa­mous res­i­dent, LeBron James, takes time out of his day to shoot a con­grat­u­la­tory video.

There might be some breaks that have come along the way, but no flukes. Just ab­so­lute dom­i­na­tion. The In­di­ans are blud­geon­ing teams, outscor­ing them 139-35 dur­ing the streak.

They have played 189 in­nings in the streak and trailed af­ter only four. They’ve won 14 by five or more runs. They’ve hit more home runs, 41, than runs given up by the pitch­ing staff.

Their ro­ta­tion has gone 19-0 with a 1.70 ERA, with the staff throw­ing seven shutouts. Their 19 shutouts this year are five more than any team in base­ball.

Logic says the streak can’t go for­ever, but our heart wants more: a World Se­ries pa­rade.

This time in down­town Cleve­land.

DAVID RICHARD, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Fans cel­e­brate af­ter Cleve­land beat Detroit to set the Amer­i­can League record with 21 con­sec­u­tive wins.

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