There are streaks and then THERE are streaks. There is dominance and then THERE is dominating. Such as the case of the defending American League champion, Cleveland Indians.
Thanks to a 5-3 win over the visiting Detroit Tigers, the Tribe did the impossible of setting a new AL record with 21 straight wins—tying them with the ‘25 Chicago Cubs—and surpassing the 20-game streak set by the Oakland A’s in 2002. Now owners of the longest such streak in modern-day baseball, Cleveland has the look of an unstoppable juggernaut looking to atone for some unfinished business this postseason.
You have to admit that there is something magical about the Indians 21-game rampage. Timely hitting, clutch hitting, nearly unhittable pitching. And to think they they are doing this WITHOUT ace closer Andrew Miller and All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley.
What should really scare opposing teams is that Cleveland’s lineup will only be getting more reinforcements such as Jason Kipnis, the forementioned Brantley, the addition of Jay Bruce, the career home run hitting of All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and the seemingly impossible-to-get-out Jose Ramirez.
And I didn’t even mention sluggers Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion.
Yeah. That’s how DEEP and flat-out scary that this Indians team is.
As a former high school baseball player, I can tell when a team has “it” in terms of a perfect balance of offense, defense, pitching and relief. And like a perfect storm forming, this Indians team can give Irma and Harvey a run for their money.
The best baseball teams I’ve ever seen in my lifetime were the 1995 Indians and the 1998 New York Yankees.
What the ‘95 team had was a seemingly loaded lineup of professional hitters such as Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Carlos Baerga, Paul Sorrento, Jim Thome, Albert Belle and Eddie Murray that were almost impossible to get out. There was no weak spot, no one to pitch around.
Did I fail to mention they also had a very young Manny Ramirez, who hadn’t even scratched the surface yet.
The ‘95 Indians’ only weakness was their pitching, as the eventual champion Atlanta Braves would exploit.
The ‘98 Yankees on the other hand were the true definition of a professional hitting squad of hitters. You had Derek Jeter, Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Chuck Knoblauch and Tino Martinez, that were both patient and masterful and making opposing pitchers work long counts before getting on-base.
Every pitch was a war of attrition in watching that ‘98 Yankees team. Even as an Indians fan, whose team bowed out to them in the ‘98 ALCS, it was a hard-earned respect in acknowledging an old and ancient nemesis’ greatness.
What this ‘17 Indians team has—I feel—is a combination of both in terms of patient hitters such as Kipnis, Lindor, Santana and Bruce, dominant pitching such as Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, explosive offense from Brantley, Encarnacion, Ramirez and clutch defense from Giovani Urshela. Stats simply cannot simply convey just how dominant Cleveland has played as their starting pitchers have gone 19-0 with a 1.68 ERA, hit 41 home runs, allowed 33 runs, gone 11-0 on the road, a +102 run differential, best since the ‘39 Yankees, trailed for just four innings out of 189.0 total, seven shutouts and tying the ‘91 Minnesota Twins in going 15-0 in September.
At 90-56, and winners of six straight series, Cleveland appears to not just be content with a historical streak, surpassing Houston to home-field in the AL or even the Dodgers and Nationals for best record in all of MLB, but want to close the deal entirely. The way they are playing now, that may be entirely possible.