Where my Tribe Fans at? High fives to you all. Our team is en fuego. And in the best possible way.
Yesterday was a historic one with my beloved Cleveland Indians winning their 21st game in a row. That beats the previous American League record of 20, set by the Oakland A's back in 2002 and ties the Major League baseball record of the 1936 Chicago Cubs. The only other technicality standing in the Tribe's way is the 1916 New York Giants who didn't lose for 26 straight games, except that one of those games was a mysterious tie that used to happen in our great-grandpa's baseball. But the other technicality is that the Cleveland Indians' win-streak is the longest in "modern" baseball history since both the Cubs and Giants records were set before the league became integrated -- Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Arguably, Major League Baseball didn't truly begin until the world's elite players of all races and ethnicities were playing the sport together.
Regardless of your stance on any of these finer points, a twenty-one game winning streak is fucking impressive, no matter how you feel about baseball.
And while this sport (of all sports) can be pretty flukey, it really hasn't been for the Indians during this run. They've been playing like beasts, firing on all cylinders, with heart-stoppingly good starting pitching to highlight reel defense (can you say....Gionvanny Urshela?) to patient-yet-aggressive at-bats that lead to smart base running.
During this win-streak:
- The Indians have outscored their opponents 139-35.
- They have only trailed in four innings out of 189 played.
- Tribe starters (#1 in the American League) have only given up 25 earned runs and have an impressive earned run average of 1.7.
- Starters have also gone 19-0....largely because in 18 of the 21 games, starters have given up two runs or less, including seven shut outs (meaning the opposing team did not score any runs).
- The Indians have scored first in 19 of the 21 games -- in the first three innings, my guys have outscored their opponent 68-13.
- Tribe hitters have combined for 41 home runs during the streak -- and not just "the big guys," but a lot of recent call-ups and not-typically-power-hitter guys have gotten in on this action.
- The Indians hitters are batting .305 as a team and slugging .566.
And according to the statistics website FiveThirtyEight, the Indians aren't even living up to their potential with these kinds of numbers! Read that full article here (and I recommend you do -- it gave me the chills), but what the data suggests is that the 2017 Cleveland Indians could and should and can do better than what this win-streak is showing America right now. That if you're looking to jump on bandwagon, the CLE one might be the best destination for your desire to back a winner at this exact moment. We've still got key guys, name reliever Andrew Miller (maybe the biggest reason the Indians made it to Game 7 of the World Series last season), outfielder Michael Brantley, and second baseman Jason Kipnis on the disabled list -- not to mention that streaky starter Danny Salazar has been streaky-in-a-bad-way during this winning stretch and should he figure his shit out, oh my sweet baby jesus. Basically, if the Indians' rotation -- especially Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer -- can stay healthy and remain this locked in, for get a bout it. The 2017 Cleveland Indians are even more of the real deal than this historic run even suggests. That is saying something pretty major.
So, what's next. The Indians open a four-game series at home against the struggling Kansas City Royals, who once had a hot streak of their own this summer that threatened to overtake Cleveland in their run for the Central Division Pennant (I haven't forgotten, KC) then hittin' up the West Coast for a series against the Angels, followed by the Mariners, before returning home to close out the regular season against the Twins and the White Sox. If we check out this chart:
...we see that the Royals, Mariners, and Angels are not technically out of the hunt for the Wild Card (but probably all three are) while the White Sox have been outright eliminated from play-off potential. Theoretically, the Indians could continue to waltz all the way through that 26-game technical win-streak set back in 1916. But at this point, who cares? The Indians are playing great baseball that's really fun to watch -- even some of the games they've lost this season have been incredibly dramatic and full of great surprises, so while I'd love love love (who am I kidding -- I'd fucking love it) if my team removed all doubt and shattered that 1916 NY Giants record, I also am happy just to watch them play well day in and day out, remaining consistent and playing smart, clean, productive games.
This is where Terry Francona's leadership is shining through so brilliantly -- every word out of his mouth is about today's matchup and nothing else. He started this leveled way of talking about his team when they were staring a long, unbreakable stretch of games without a day off (I think like was like 26 days in a row), all against incredibly tough teams -- like Boston and New York and the then-mighty Kansas City and Minnesota -- much of those games on the road on top of that -- but Francona didn't let anyone's eyes drift past this game today and the result was a cool-headed, relaxed, focused, driven team that just kept getting better and better until......history was made.
If you were to ask me what I'd rather: the Indians breaking this win-streak record or the Indians winning the World Series, I'd laugh heartily in your face. Obviously, a brilliant postseason -- including World Series rings for all -- is what all baseball fans want for their team. But (I just knocked on wood) why can't we have both (knocks on wood again)? Thinking back to that FiveThirtyEight article we all took the time to read, the Indians are in a great position, better than other teams with similar success (namely the A's), to continue to be successful as the regular season finishes up. Check out this chart:
My oh my, the numbers don't lie.
And neither do I as I tilt my head up to the sky and yell "GO TRIBE!"
Yeah, this win-streak is making my rhyme in my prose. Deal with it. And deal with this:
It's Believeland or Bust. I love you no matter what....but in the words of Lou Brown, "Let's give 'em all a nice big shit burger to eat." Go Tribe.
For a recap of all 21 of the games in the streak, click here.
Originally posted in the Inspired in 2017 blog on September 14, 2017.