CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Trying to write about the Cleveland Indians’ now 21-game win streak has been tiresome at times, mostly because of the team’s professional approach.
‘Day-by-day’ has been the mantra, without much real insight to how the streak has come to be, despite that tactic being perhaps the main psychological reason for it. Though for at least a moment on Wednesday, it went by the wayside.
When Lonnie Chisenhall reeled in a lined-shot off of the bat of Ian Kinsler for the 27th out, you could tell that the players cared about the mark. For once.
Giovanny Urshela lept with his hands in the air at third base while shortstop Francisco Lindor threw a hearty fist pump. The moment mattered after three weeks straight of saying that the streak was only a matter of conscience thought when reporters brought it up, and nothing more.
The predisposed notion that the World Series hopefuls are on a day-to-day grind is not untrue, as one of the day’s heroes, Jay Bruce, revealed he thought he was playing the Kansas City Royals that are in town tomorrow.
The excitement has been palpable for Bruce, who came from a situation in which he described as ‘the least fun in baseball to the most fun,’ in being dealt from the New York Mets. That fun, according to the slugger, is born out of the team playing for each other.
“I’m very, very fortunate to be in this situation, and like I said when I came here, I just want to help,” he said. “I just want to be a part of something that is bigger than myself, personally. I think everyone in that locker room feels the same exact way. So it is easy for me, the transition has been seamless and these guys have welcomed me with open arms. It’s been easy, man. It’s been like I’ve been here all year.”
Unless the team inside the locker room that has welcomed Bruce have become jaded or begun taking things for granted, they feel the same way.
For as much as the players have talked about being focused on that day’s game, the narrative finally began to change, even before the game. Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway talked about how he and bullpen coach Jason Bere have stopped having advanced meetings with the rotation, rather meeting with individuals to discuss individuals on the opposing side.
After the game, starter Mike Clevinger gave the first solid confirmation that the feeling within the walls of Progressive Field is different.
“I mean not that we haven’t always been kind of a lax locker room, just getting along real well, but it’s been a little more loose. Everyone’s been a little more free,” he said. “The flow to each day has been awesome. I don’t know. Everything’s been going well.”
At the same time, both Callaway and Clevinger acknowledged that the streak has brought a separate intensity that may not otherwise be there. The coach said that the friendly competition between starting pitchers adds incentive to each start, while the day’s starter himself said the feeling around the game brings an added benefit.
“I don’t think you see that electric of an atmosphere every September noon game,” Clevinger added. “So, yeah, I think that added pressure lets us stay locked in. I know we’ve got a good lead in the division and stuff, but this just allows us to stay on the same track and keep our work steady.”
Publications that break down hard numbers with no emotion will tell you that the Indians’ historic run does not matter. That is true to a degree, as the run gives zero predictive value to what the team can accomplish come October.
To have a double-edged sword of fun and intensity, while on the precipice of a potential World Series encore no less, has an unspoken value that can only be unlocked with a continued focus.
Whether or not the Indians want to acknowledge that.