Last night was certainly one not to be forgotten in Cleveland. With two outs in the ninth, the Indians were down by a run to the Royals when Francisco Lindor cracked a double to send pinch runner Erik González home. After August trade acquisition Jay Bruce hit a walk-off single, Cleveland won their 22nd straight game, giving them the modern MLB winning-streak.
The “modern” caveat is on there because there’s a running debate on whether their streak qualifies as the “all-time” MLB winning streak, because the 1916 Giants won 26 games in a row. The issue is a pesky tie in the middle of the Giants’ streak. Said tie, however, was due to a different set of rules than exist now: the game was tied in the eighth inning, but was rained out and the game was cancelled. The Giants played a doubleheader the next day to make up the game and the Giants won that game, so there’s certainly a strong argument to be made that the record still stands at 26. After all, there’s no tying in baseball.
Whether you want to want to call it the “modern” record or go so far as to enshrine it as the real deal, winning 22 games in a row is an absolutely insane accomplishment, whatever era of baseball you’re talking about. Terrible teams spoil the best intentions of great teams all the time, and the Indians haven’t only been playing terrible teams. Heck, they started the winning stretch against the Red Sox and sent potential Cy Young recipient Chris Sale packing after three innings. The utter dominance that Cleveland has shown over the last three weeks has been discombobulating. They have outscored their opponents 142-37, for a run differential of +105. In. Three. Weeks.
Cleveland’s starting pitchers have a 1.77 ERA over 137.2 innings. To put things in historical context, I suggest checking out Jeff Sullivan’s piece on how Cleveland’s rotation might be the best baseball has ever seen. They’ve thrown seven shutouts. Corey Kluber is the only starter with with an ERA over 1.00, and the Klubot is rightfully a Cy Young candidate. Looking at Cleveland’s starters and relievers together, they’ve tossed 199 innings of 1.58 ERA baseball. With 200 strikeouts, 0.5 HR/9 and a 0.93 WHIP, Cleveland pitchers have collectively pitched like a Cy Young winner for three straight weeks. Closer Cody Allen hasn’t allowed a run since August 9, more than covering this stretch.
Cleveland hitters as a whole are hitting .306/.385/.552 over the stretch, for a 144 wRC+.
Basically, the entire lineup is hitting like Jose Ramirez on the season (.314/.368/.573). And speaking of Jose Ramirez, he’s hitting .423/.462/.944 for a a 260 wRC+. Thanks to this ridiculous stretch, he’s actually surpassed Lindor (5.2) in fWAR on the season with 5.6. While Jose Altuve (.348/.409/.559, 6.9 fWAR) is still the clear cut candidate for the AL MVP this season, Ramirez is certainly the MVP of the Indians’ streak.
When they started the streak on Aug. 24, they were 4.5 games up in the division. Now, they’ve clinched a playoff berth and have the best record in the AL and are within spitting distance of claiming homefield advantage throughout the playoffs from the struggling Dodgers. Winning 22 games in a row will do that to you. If it’s still unlikely that Cleveland will win the World Series, and it is, because it’s unlikely that any given team will win the World Series, so be it. But what the Indians have already accomplished in winning 22 straight games is more impressive than winning the World Series anyway. So I, for one, will be catching as much Cleveland baseball as I can until this wild ride is over.