I never thought I would ever have the opportunity to say it, but Cleveland sports teams are on a roll, and if this year is any indication, it is only the beginning of a bright future for a city that is more than deserving of some positive news.
First the Lake Erie Monsters won the Calder Cup as AHL affiliates of the Columbus Blue Jackets, then the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a deficit that was thought to be insurmountable because it had never been before. Now, it seems to be the Indians’ turn to keep those in the northern Ohio city in disbelief.
Friday’s game against the Blue Jays took 19 innings and over six hours to complete, but after the bullpen pitched 13 shutout innings, including Trevor Bauer, who was slated to start tomorrow afternoon’s game, Carlos Santana and the Indians escaped and extended their winning streak to a franchise-record 14 games. Kansas City also fell to Philadelphia later in the evening, adding a game to Cleveland’s division lead that now stands at seven.
The Tribe has been strong in all categories during the streak, contributing to their domination of their opponents. But much of this has been possible because of the team’s performance on the mound. Starters, who are 10-0 since the streak started on June 17th, have made it easy on the bullpen as of late, allowing them to rest up prior to the marathon that carried into Friday evening. This includes multiple complete games and very few runs allowed. According to a cleveland.com article, Indians’ starters entered Friday with a 1.86 earned run average during the span of the last 14 games, and no pitcher has allowed more than three earned runs during that stretch.
The offense has stepped up quite a bit as well. Jason Kipnis extended a streak of his own on Canada Day, bringing his hitting streak to 13 games. Let’s not forget the long ball, which has been one of the Indians’ best friends as of late. Cleveland went on to keep their record against the Tigers this season unblemished Sunday against Justin Verlander, scoring six runs from four home runs in the fifth inning. Tyler Naquin has provided an unexpected boost, Lonnie Chisenhall has been hot recently, and Jose Ramirez has been driving runs home, hitting just under .400 with runners in scoring position.
Emotions have been on the bright side off the field as well, although it should not come as a surprise. Josh Tomlin told MLB.com following the Indians’ 14th consecutive victory on Friday, “The character we have in here, the never-die, the never-give-up attitude, was awesome.”
Speaking of the Indians having their way against the Tigers this year, they have been exceptional in games against divisional opponents. Despite their 2-4 record against the Twins, Cleveland holds a 24-10 record, taking seven of nine from the White Sox and six of ten from the defending champions.
The run by the Tribe has sparked conversation from many that believe they could be favorites to represent the American League in the Fall Classic this season. While it is still a little too early to get too in-depth with playoff odds, multiple sources – such as Baseball Prospectus, FiveThirtyEight, and FanGraphs – have supported this claim, all of which have the chance that the Indians reach the postseason well into the 90% range. Baseball Prospectus even has the Tribe as the favorite to be the last team standing (yes, even over the Cubs).
The AL Central leaders still have some work to do before the all-star break. They will return home after ending the weekend series against Toronto to face Detroit and then meet the Yankees for a four-game series.
There is still plenty of the season left to be played and much can change from now and October 2nd, but the Indians have made work a lot easier on themselves by getting ahead before the all-star break, rather than having to play catch-up in the dying days of the regular season.