CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – If even for just one more night, the streak lived on.
It took until deep into the mid-September night for the Cleveland Indians to find any success offensively. The Tribe bats sputtered out and leaving eight runners on base over eight innings, just as they had while attempting to find consistency early in the season.
The team’s first 21 games of their American League record winning streak never seemed to suffer the same storyline, with the team putting up unbelievable numbers on both sides of the ball, creating a historic run differential.
With each passing win, the team’s championship hopes went largely unaffected, pundits and advanced calculations casting doubt onto whether or not the streak had actual negative effects.
Win no. 22 was much different than those that preceded it. The Indians trailed for four innings in the contest, as many as they had in 21 games coming in. They trailed in the 7th inning or later for the first time in the entirety of the streak.
The end result was even different. Albeit still a win, it was the team’s first walk-off victory in that stretch.
For once in what is nearing a month, the Indians had to scratch and claw for a win. While the doubts were being cast over whether or not the streak was possibly detrimental, the Indians came up with a championship effort.
They did it in front of a championship crowd.
“That was a great atmosphere. My goodness sakes, it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. It’s better when you win,” Manager Terry Francona said. “The experience for some of our young guys is incredible right now. They’re learning on the job right smack in the middle of this. It’s really good.”
The notion that the streak is actually a detriment? Jay Bruce, the night’s eventual hero of heroes, dismissed the very thought.
With the Indians sticking at 14 games up in the AL Central with Minnesota’s walk-off win, and the magic number sitting at 3 with another 15 to play, the idea of playing meaningful games can be hard to find.
The streak has given the Indians that.
“This doesn’t really happen anywhere,” Bruce said. “You can hit that lull in September and even though you’ve got all but wrapped up the division, you know, the games can get long. They can get boring. They can get monotonous. We have a lot of things going for us that make it not like that. Obviously the streak. People are going crazy. It’s a playoff atmosphere. We’re trying to get the best record in baseball. So we have a lot to play for and I think it’s the perfect combination for a team that’s so far up. And I think everybody understands that, so it’s huge.”
As Francona noted, it was another game where everyone contributed. Greg Allen had to relieve the injured Lonnie Chisenhall. Francisco Mejia pinch hit for Yan Gomes in the 9th. Tyler Naquin, lost on the roster behind the likes of Allen and Bradley Zimmer just a year after being a full-time player, created the game tying run.
“Just the experience for guys like Allen, Mejia, to be right in the middle of it is invaluable,” Francona added. “You’re right, they’re fun games to play, the atmosphere, it kind of felt like a playoff game and that’s invaluable.”
Progressive Field will be sold out for the attempt at no. 23.