CLEVELAND -- Winning 20 straight major league baseball games is nearly impossible.
Not for the Indians.
Cleveland continued its remarkable march toward history Tuesday night at Progressive Field, blanking the Tigers 2-0 to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 20 games.
The 20-game streak is tied for the American League’s longest ever, matching Oakland (2002) for the longest in MLB’s expansion era (since 1961). It is one shy of the second-longest streak in baseball history -- by the Chicago Cubs in 1935 -- and six shy of the official longest winning streak of 26, which included a tie, set by the New York Giants in 1916.
And as has been the case for much of the successful stretch, the Indians could care less.
“We haven’t talked about it all,” Cleveland’s ace Corey Kluber said of the win streak. “I haven’t heard anybody in (the clubhouse) talking about how many games in a row we’ve won. We’re aware of it just because of the attention it gets, but it’s not something we’re focusing on. It’s more coming to the field each day and preparing to win a game. (The approach has) worked, so that’s obviously the biggest reason why we’re able to do it. We see the results from it, but I think it’s kind of preached to us from Day 1. It’s a lot easier to buy into when you see the results.”
“It’s cool, yeah, for sure. For sure, it’s something special,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said of the streak. “It’s going to be there forever. However, am I focused on it? Not really. Are we focusing on it around here? Not really. You don’t see guys talking about it. You don’t see guys sitting in the lunch room, saying, ‘Oh, my God, we have a chance of winning 20. We have a chance of winning 21.’ We’ve just been enjoying the ride, understanding that we’re on a high right now and having fun. We’ll see what happens.”
The win was far from a surprising one for Cleveland, which entered the game as the highest favorite -- 5-to-1 -- in MLB history and with Cy Young candidate Kluber on the mound.
Kluber offered up a predictably suffocating effort, tossing a shutout at a depleted Tigers team, while allowing only five hits, striking out eight and walking none in his fifth complete game and third shutout of the season.
“It’s special. He’s been doing it all season,” Lindor said of Kluber. “Any time he does it, it’s pretty special. Whenever you throw a shutout, it’s cool. Whenever you keep the hitters off-balance like that, it shows how good you are.”
Kluber, who allowed a leadoff double to Ian Kinsler before retiring the next 11 straight, is 9-1 with a 1.93 ERA over his last 11 starts. He matched teammate Trevor Bauer and Boston’s Chris Sale for the AL lead with 16 wins and leads the league with a 2.44 ERA over 26 starts.
“I think everybody kind of looks up to him because of the way he carries himself and the professional that he is,” manager Terry Francona said. “It’s hard not to. It’s easy to talk about Kluber because he’s so good.”
The Indians scored first for the 19th time during the streak, and it came quickly, with Francisco Lindor starting the bottom of the first with a solo shot to left-center off Tigers starter Matthew Boyd.
It was home run No. 30 for Lindor, who has belted nine homers during the winning streak.
“If you look back a couple years ago when everybody talked about Frankie, it was his defense,” Kluber said. “He’s worked very hard to become a very good hitter. It’s not by accident. His defense was what got the attention initially, but I think he’s turned himself into more than just a great defensive player, but a great overall player.”
“He’s growing into a guy that is able to use the whole ballpark and hit for average, but also drive the ball out of the ballpark and play the defense,” Francona said of Lindor. “You’d never quite know, but it sure is fun to watch him.”
Cleveland scored again in the sixth when Carlos Santana led off the sixth with a double and scored two outs later on a wild pitch.
The Indians recorded their major-league leading 19th shutout, which accounts for the most in team history since they posted 23 in 1968.
Cleveland entered the night leading Houston by 1 1/2 games in the race for the AL’s top record, while trailing the Dodgers by four games for the majors’ best record.
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