Cleveland Indians make MLB history with unprecedented 21-win streak

It is not just that the Indians have won 21 straight games, they have dominated their opponents in a manner never witnessed before

Gavin Tramps
Thursday 14 September 2017 17:31 BST
Francisco Lindor with Jay Bruce at Progressive Field
Francisco Lindor with Jay Bruce at Progressive Field (Getty)

In September 2002, the Oakland Athletics won their 20th consecutive game to break an American League record set by the New York Yankees in 1947. This improbable run of victories was immortalised in Brad Pitt’s Oscar nominated movie Moneyball.

On Wednesday, with their 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers, the Cleveland Indians claimed the record for their own with their 21st consecutive win, as last season’s World Series runners up continued their bid to go one better this time.

It is not just that Cleveland has won 21 straight games, they have dominated their opponents in a manner never witnessed before. The Indians have only trailed in four out of 189 innings, and have outscored their opponents by 139 runs to just 35.

Elite pitching has been the key to the team’s success over the last couple of years, and remarkably, their starters are 19-0 since the start of the streak.

Cody Allen celebrates after beating the Detroit Tigers
Cody Allen celebrates after beating the Detroit Tigers (Getty)

While the team from Ohio has embarked on this historic run of victories, one of their main rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, has lost 16 out of their last 19 games, including an unprecedented string of 11 successive defeats.

The Dodgers are still arguably the best team in the game, and despite the horrendous losing stretch, their early season dominance means they still possess the best record in MLB.

It’s difficult to dispute that the Dodgers took their foot off the gas when their place in the playoffs was almost guaranteed. Last season, they topped the NL West with 91 wins and this year they reached 91 wins on 24 August, some five weeks before the end of the regular season. It was also the day before the run of defeats started.

To fully appreciate the magnitude of the two streaks, you need to realise that MLB is a far more competitive environment than most sports. In general, the best baseball team wins 65 per cent of the time, while the league’s bottom dwellers still manage to notch up around four victories in every ten games. Compare that to the Premiership last season, when Chelsea won 80 per cent of their games, with relegated Sunderland winning just 15 per cent of the time.

The Cleveland Indians have made history
The Cleveland Indians have made history (Getty)

The likelihood of a streak of 21 consecutive victories or even 11 defeats is almost incalculable. Well, it’s not, but it’s odds of tens of thousands to one.

Like the 2002 Oakland Athletics of Moneyball fame, the Indians are an unfashionable, small market team. Their player's salaries total just over half that of the free-spending Dodgers and their $260 million payroll.

If they ever make a film of Cleveland’s run of results, Dominican Republic native Jose Ramirez will be the star. Although a record-breaking number of home runs have been hit this season, it has come at a price of batters striking out far more often than ever before. The stocky, 5 ft 9in Ramirez is bucking the trend. The 24-year-old leads the Indians with six home runs this month, but amazingly he has yet to strike out in September.

Although an Indians vs Dodgers World Series is the bookies' favourite match-up, history is not on the side of Cleveland as the 20-game winning Athletics lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2002.

Regardless of how long the winning streak continues, it means nothing to the people of Cleveland unless their team can finally snap the streak that really matters. Having not won the World Series since 1948, the 68 season drought endured by the Indians is the longest of any team in baseball.

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