On August 30th, the Indians would have been happy with a split. They went into the first of two games against New York up 6.5 in the Central, a comfortable lead with a month left, and had already won five straight including a sweep of Kansas City that essentially removed them from contention. They were in the midst of 40 games in 40 days with another double header scheduled two days later, following the only scheduled off day during that 40 day stretch that hadn’t already been filled with a make up game. They only had to win one game against the Yankees to win both the series and the season series.
They didn’t just win one. Then, they didn’t win just one of the two games against Detroit on September 1st. Instead, after sweeping the Royals and Yankees, the Indians swept four from the Tigers (outscoring them 28-4), then four from the White Sox, three from the Orioles and three more from Detroit. Add a single win against Boston to begin the streak and one against KC to end it and the Indians just rattled off more wins in a row than any other team in American League history, second to only the 1916 Giants in MLB history.
Obviously, to have that kind of success a lot of things must come together. First, you need a starting rotation that includes five pitchers who give you a chance to win every time out. In this case, the Indians actually used seven thanks to pitchers returning from the disabled list and the pair of double headers. You also need a consistent offense, something that didn’t exist early on in the season, but certainly did during the streak. If you score enough and have a great rotation, you don’t necessarily need a great bullpen for an elongated winning streak, but the Indians had that as well.
- Only once during the streak did a starting pitcher fail to throw at least 5 innings, when Danny Salazar retired just two batters on 9/8 vs Chicago.
- 15 of 22 starts were quality starts by the old standard of at least 6 IP and 3 or fewer ER. However, seven of those times a starter went at least six innings and didn’t allow any runs of any kind.
- As a team, the Indians had seven shut outs including a complete game shut out by Corey Kluber against Detroit on 9/12.
- Ryan Merritt was replaced in the rotation after making two starts during the streak despite allowing just one run in 12 innings. He was never used again in any role.
- Mike Clevinger, arguably the Indians 5th starter, had the most consistent run during the streak. In four starts he went:
- 6 IP, 9 K, 2 BB, 4 H, 0 R vs KC on 8/26
- 6 IP, 5 K, 1 BB, 3 H, 0 R vs DET on 9/1 (game 2)
- 6 IP, 7 K, 3 BB, 3 H, 0 R vs BAL on 9/8
- 5.2 IP, 6 K, 2 BB, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 UER vs DET on 9/13
- Trevor Bauer both began and ended the streak, winning on 8/24 vs Boston and losing on 9/15 vs KC. Before the loss, he had won nine consecutive decisions with a 2.51 ERA in 64.2 innings and just 19 walks to 72 strike outs.
- By far, the most dominant starter in the streak was Kluber. He made four starts and pitched at least seven innings in each, going eight twice in addition to the complete game shut out. He held a 1.41 ERA during the streak with 35 strike outs and two walks.
- Since returning from the DL in June, Kluber has posted a 1.77 ERA, .171 AVG against and struck out 202 in 147.1 innings. He will likely make three more starts this season.
The entire offense performed admirably (you don’t get a 105 run differential in 22 games just by pitching well), but the Indians leading MVP candidate deserves a section to himself.
- The streak perfectly aligned with Ramirez coming out a slump that saw him drop from a season best .332/.388/.601 slash line on 7/9 to .298/.354/.517 the day before it started.
- Ramirez broke an 0 for 14 slide on 8/24 with two hits including his first of 11 doubles during the streak.
- He hit only 10 singles, but had 21 extra base hits with nine home runs and a triple in addition to the 11 doubles.
- While Ramirez is usually a doubles machine, he had just 19 home runs in 1,129 AB before this season (one ever 59 AB). That dropped to one every 8 at bats during the 24 games.
- With those doubles, Ramirez reached 50 on the season along with 27 home runs. This made him the third player in Indians history to have at least 50 doubles and 15 home runs, joining Grady Sizemore (53 and 28 in 2006) and Albert Belle (52 and 50 in 1995).
- Overall, he hit .413/.451/.947 to raise his season line back up to .314/.367/.576. This isn’t quite his pre-slump line, but it was a long slump.
The Rest of the Offense/Defense
- During the streak, Carlos Santana, Brandon Guyer, Lonnie Chisenhall, Bradley Zimmer and Jay Bruce all missed at least two days due to injury during the streak. Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley missed the entire thing.
- With many starters out, the young stars had a chance to shine:
- Yandy Diaz hit .344/.468/.453 during the streak. Despite still not having a home run, he raised his slugging percent from .200 to .321 for the season. He also walked 14 times to 10 strike outs.
- The only player to play in every game during the streak, Giovanny Urshela was often used as a defensive replacement. When he did bat, however, he hit 316/.366/.421. He only made one start after 9/2.
- Pressed into starting duty after the injury to Zimmer, Greg Allen had an incredible three game stretch against the White Sox from 9/5-7. He hit his first career double and home run, knocking in five.
- Of course, the regulars played well too. Francisco Lindor also came into the streak in a bit of a slump, dropping to .260/.320/.462 the day before. He’s since raised that to .278/.338/.508 thanks to 31 hits in the 22 game streak including four doubles, two triples and nine home runs.
- Edwin Encarnacion “only” hit five of his 34 home runs during the 22 games, but he knocked in 15 including three each in consecutive games on 9/7-8.
- Offense from the catcher position has been a major issue for the Indians running on two seasons now, but both Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes had a nice run during the streak. Perez hit four home runs and knocked in 11 while hitting .359/.432/.769 and Gomes had three home runs, knocked in 10 and hit .286/.300/.490. This is a particularly big jump for Perez who was hitting .180/.271/.273 prior to the streak.
- During the streak, the Indians defense committed just six errors, three of which were from the two catchers. The hot defensive streak has brought the Indians from about league average defensively to 3rd in the AL with 20.6 runs saved above average.
- Incredibly, the entirety of the 22 game winning streak happened without Andrew Miller with the exception of the final game. In his stead, Tyler Olson pitched 5.2 shut out innings, striking out two without a walk.
- After a slightly rough August, Bryan Shaw pitched 11 games out of the 22, earning seven holds and allowing just two runs across 10.2 innings. He struck out 14 and walked one.
- Cody Allen was the best of the best, pitching in 11 games and striking out 14 in 11 innings. He didn’t allow a run on three hits although the blow out nature of many games only allowed him to earn six saves.
The lack of close games is really what really makes this streak impressive. The first four games were won by a total score of 33-6 with three shut outs against Kansas City. These four games and ten others were decided by four or more runs with five games won by at least nine. This utter dominance shows how unfluky this streak really was. While there was certainly some luck in the opponents, particularly playing Detroit and Chicago in exactly half of those games and in the offense coming together at the same time after being largely all or nothing early in the year, there was little question during the streak itself that the Indians would keep winning.
It wasn’t until the final game that the Indians were even losing for more than an inning in a game and they didn’t need extras until that last game against Kansas City as well. While there’s certainly nothing scientific to it, it’s interesting how the streak eventually petered out. Just like the shorter streak in 2016, it was an extra inning win the night before that pushed the Indians to the edge. The previous AL record holder for consecutive wins, the 2002 Oakland A’s had a similar fate. They also won regularly by large margins, but the final three games of that streak were walk off wins before they finally lost to Minnesota. The last win was 12-11, the most runs allowed in a single game at any point during the streak. For the Indians, the last win was 3-2, tied for their third fewest runs scored during the streak.
In any event, the 22 straight wins vaulted the Indians from 69-56 with a 4.5 lead in the division to 91-57 and a 13.5 game lead. Instead of worrying about the division now, however, they are looking for home field advantage throughout the play-offs.