Cleveland Indians fans celebrate a 5-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday in Cleveland. The Indians set the American League record with 21 consecutive wins.
RON SCHWANE / AP Enlarge
CLEVELAND — The sprinkler system at Progressive Field was erroneously activated in left and center field during the fifth inning Wednesday afternoon.
Even that couldn’t cool off the Indians.
Less than 24 hours after tying the record for the longest winning streak in American League history, Cleveland broke it with a 5-3 victory that completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers and left the Indians with a 21-game winning streak.
The streak is the longest in the expansion era (since 1961) and matches the second-longest in baseball history set by the 1935 Chicago Cubs, with the longest official streak — 26 games (including a tie) — owned by the 1916 New York Giants.
Manager Terry Francona has gone to great lengths to take the focus off his team’s winning streak, but even he allowed himself to marvel at the accomplishment.
“I think they’re enjoying themselves. They should,” Francona said. “I think what’s kind of cool about our game is when you do things, and you do them the right way ... Our guys are playing the game to win, the right way. That part’s very meaningful. They should enjoy what they’re doing. It’s pretty special.”
Still, Francona’s one-day-at-a-time mantra has served the Indians well during the highly successful stretch, with nearly everyone in the clubhouse at least saying they are focusing on the game at hand.
It’s tough to argue with the results.
“You know everyone talks about the streak and being consumed with it. What consumes us is the daily kind of schedule and game we have to get ready for,” right fielder Jay Bruce said. “I think our focus tends to stay so right where we are and then move to the next and then move to the next.
“We don’t have time to worry about what happened in the past and we definitely don’t have any time to worry about what’s going to happen in the future, so hey, I think we have a group of guys here, coaching staff and just a whole organization that kind of echoes that sentiment.”
For only the second time in the last 21 games, the Indians did not score first, with right-hander Mike Clevinger allowing a run in the first.
Detroit’s lead lasted half an inning, with Bruce’s three-run home run giving Cleveland the advantage for good in the bottom of the first.
“(It was) expected, I would say by now,” Clevinger said of the instant offense. “I mean, it was kind of a joke but I don’t think there was a second that I doubted we were gonna score some runs or string together some hits. That thought never crossed my mind. I wasn’t just wishing we were gonna score. It was, I kinda knew we were gonna score and ‘What am I gonna do to hold it where it is?”‘
Clevinger, who entered the day riding three straight scoreless outings, allowed three runs (1 earned) on six hits over 5⅔ innings.
“In the first couple innings, (he had a) high pitch count,” Francona said. “He had to work out of some jams. But, again, he’s not wild. He’s down. And he’s been doing a real good job of staying down, and when he misses he doesn’t miss by much. It was a tight strike zone today. Not saying it was a bad one, just tight. I thought Clev adjusted really well.”
The Tigers scored twice to close within a run in the sixth, but the Indians responded quickly again, with Roberto Perez belting a solo shot over the wall in center for a 5-3 lead in the seventh.
The Indians whittled their magic number to four, with the Twins playing Wednesday night. They can clinch a postseason berth with a win in the series opener against Kansas City tonight, while continuing their trek toward another historical winning streak.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s definitely an honor, but it’s part of the process,” closer Cody Allen said. “Ultimately, we’re trying to win as many games as we can. If you can win them all in a row, great. If you can win every series, you’re just trying to play good baseball that day. Today, we played a couple runs better than they did. We’re going to try to show up and do the same thing (tonight).”
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