On the cusp of history: Cleveland Indians tie AL record with 20th straight win

Francisco Lindor jumped through the door and to the Indians’ clubhouse, where the pulsating music was in an ear-splitting level.

As many of his teammates dressed quickly with a different game only 14 hours away, Cleveland’s star shortstop worked the room, exchanging high-fives with anyone he could find.

It is almost unthinkable for a team to win 20 straight games.

Usually, that only happens in the movies.

“Moneyball” has its sequel.

After a familiar script of scoring first, playing powerful defence and riding dominant pitching, the Indians extended their winning streak to 20 and matched the AL mark held by the 2002 Oakland Athletics, beating the Detroit Tigers 2-0 on Tuesday night.

Cleveland’s series, which started Aug. 24 in Boston, is tied to the majors’ second-longest in 82 years — and the Indians show no signs of quitting.

“It is special,” Lindor said. “As a kid, you dream of playing in front of a good deal of fans and the audience goes nuts. That is what you want. This is for them. It is not for us{}”

Lindor homered leading off the first and Corey Kluber (16-4) strengthened his Cy Young Award case using a four-hitter as Cleveland joined the 2002 A’s, 1935 Chicago Cubs (21) and 1916 New York Giants (26) as the only teams since 1900 to win 20 in a row.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Kluber stated. “To go almost 3 weeks without losing a match isn’t something which you really expect.”

The Progressive Field crowd of 24,654, riveted by every pitch as though it was October, stood and roared when Kluber sprinted into the mound for the ninth.

Second baseman Jose Ramirez made a sensational diving stop in short right field to throw Ian Kinsler for the second out, and after allowing a double to Alex Presley, Kluber sealed win No. 20 — and Cleveland’s seventh shutout during the series — by getting Miguel Cabrera on a simple grounder to third.

Fireworks exploded overhead and the Indians lined up single-file exactly the exact same way they have for months to celebrate yet another win in this unlikely series.

“For sure, it is something special,” Lindor said. “It is going to be there forever.”

Though they insist they are not focused on the series, the Indians are playing as though they do not want it to end.

They are now within reach of the Giants’ revered 101-year-old mark, which contains a tie which interrupted 12- and 14-game unbeaten runs. However, the Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistical custodian for Major League Baseball, has always considered the Giants’ stretch as the gold standard because tie games were replayed from the beginning back then.

Cleveland can equal the Cubs’ 21-game run Wednesday afternoon.

The Indians and A’s, whose sudden run to the post-season 15 decades back was re-told in the movie starring Brad Pitt, do not have much in common besides their 20-game streaks.

Oakland was an overachieving squad packed with pitching and a roster comprised of low-salaried players assembled by a front office that forced baseball to rethink how it evaluated talent. The Indians, on the other hand, have spent millions to get better, and also have been expected to win — large.

Maybe not at this awesome speed, but after getting to Game 7 in 2016, Cleveland was a favorite to come back to the World Series.

Closing in on their second consecutive AL Central title, the Indians figured to keep things moving with Kluber on the mound, and the right-hander continued his own superb stretch.

Kluber improved to 8-1 in his past nine starts and lowered his ERA to an AL-best 2.45 with his third shutout of the season and fifth complete game. He allowed a leadoff double in the first to Kinsler, but stranded him by striking out Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos to end the inning.

Cabrera came in batting .434 against Kluber but went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

The Tigers have been beaten six times by the Indians during their series.

“In a way, it does not surprise me,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said of Cleveland’s three-week dominance. “As if any team can do it, it is them. They have got it all.”

While understanding the fascination with his team’s roster, Indians manager Terry Francona has been downplaying the series so as to not make it a diversion. He chooses his words carefully if he is speaking to coworkers, family or friends.

“I got one really good friend, one of my best friends, but he is notoriously bad luck,” Francona said. “Everybody kind of refers to him like the gray cloud. He knows who he is and you talk about superstitions, I won’t speak to him. He is a text only.

“Oh, yeah. He knows. It cost me one job, he is not getting in the way again.”

DYNAMIC DUO

Lindor and Ramirez have carried the Indians through the series.

Not only is Cleveland’s double-play mix making jaw-dropping plays in the area, they are the team’s hottest hitters. Lindor is batting .359 (28 for 78) with nine homers and 19 RBIs while Ramirez is hitting .391 (25 for 64) with eight homers and 14 RBIs.

MILLER’S MOMENT

Indians All-Star LHP Andrew Miller could be pitching again as early as Thursday. He has been on the disabled list with knee tendinitis, but following a successful simulated game Monday, among the game’s top relievers is all set. Francona said the team is weighing whether to trigger Miller for the series opener against Kansas City or have him pitch another simulated game.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Indians: 2B Jason Kipnis is pushing to return Sunday after being sidelined since Aug. 23 with a strained hamstring. Kipnis will play center field as the club should add outfield thickness after newcomer Bradley Zimmer struck his left hand. Zimmer’s fracture required a plate and nine screws in operation. He is going to be re-examined in a couple of weeks, but doctors have estimated he will need two months to recuperate.

Tigers: DH Victor Martinez experienced a heart ablation to correct an irregular heartbeat that caused the five-time All-Star to be hospitalized last month. The 38-year-old is expected to return next year. … RHP Michael Fulmer had ulnar nerve transposition surgery in Pensacola, Florida. Last year’s AL Rookie of the Year is expected to be ready for spring training.

UP NEXT

The Indians will go for No. 21 in a row Wednesday at 12:10 p.m. with RHP Mike Clevinger, who has not allowed a run in his previous three outings, beginning against Tigers RHP Buck Farmer.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail