An early 1-0 deficit — only the second time during the streak the opposition has scored first — was quickly erased, and the Indians led the rest of the way Wednesday afternoon in a 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers in front of a Progressive Field crowd of nearly 30,000 that created a playoff-like atmosphere.
The win extended the Indians' incredible streak to an American League record of 21 games. That is tied with the 1935 Chicago Cubs for the second-longest longest winning streak of all time, trailing only the 26 in a row won by the 1916 New York Giants, whose streak included a tie in the middle.
"I think they're enjoying themselves. They should," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think what's kind of cool about our game is when you do things, and you do them the right way, I think it means more when you're not going out of your way to — with a hitting streak, somebody hits 3-0 when you're down five runs — and 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."
In what was an oddity over the last 21 games, the Indians trailed in the first inning. With two on and two out, Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario doubled home a run to left-center field. It was the first run scored against Mike Clevinger in his last four outings, Wednesday included.
That lead lasted about 18 minutes. With two on and two out in the bottom of the first, Jay Bruce belted a three-run homer to left field that just cleared the 19-foot wall. It gave the Indians a 3-1 lead, which meant they have trailed at the end of only four complete innings in 21 games.
After giving up the early run, Clevinger and the Indians dugout didn't flinch.
"I don't think there was a second that I doubted we were gonna score some runs or string together some hits," Clevinger said. "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."
The Indians (90-56) never again trailed but had to work to protect their lead.
Jose Ramirez created a run in the third inning, driving a ball to the right-center gap and legging out a double by just beating JaCoby Jones' throw to second base. Edwin Encarnacion followed with a bloop single on which Ramirez was able to score, making it 4-1.
The Tigers drew to within one run in the sixth inning. Miguel Cabrera reached on an error by Yandy Diaz and Nick Castellanos followed with a double to make it 4-2. Andrew Romine singled with two outs to score Castellanos and end Clevinger's day. Nick Goody entered and escaped the inning.
Clevinger (10-5) lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits and six strikeouts.
Roberto Perez added an insurance run in the seventh on a solo home run to center field. He is hitting .378 during the streak, the best offensive stretch of his career.
The Tigers (60-85) threatened in the eighth with Bryan Shaw on the mound. Cabrera singled to right and, with one out, Candelario reached on an error by Shaw in what was not one of the more athletic plays you'll see on a baseball diamond.
A few pitches later, Giovanny Urshela made up for it with a highlight-reel, diving stop and throw to second base for the second out that probably saved a run. Romine then grounded out to Urshela to end the inning with the Indians still holding a two-run advantage.
"That was a game-changer, that play," Perez said of Urshela's diving stop. "He's huge. That's why he's here. That's why they put him in in the seventh inning, to have a chance to save the game."
Cody Allen (27 saves) pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to nail down win No. 21 and extend one of the most impressive winning streaks in baseball history.
The Tigers let out some frustration in the third inning, and it led to the ejection of catcher James McCann and manager Brad Ausmus. Bruce drew a walk, which prompted McCann to have some words with home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott. Other Tigers players — especially Cabrera — a few times this series have also shared their displeasure after a called third strike.
McCann was quickly tossed, followed by Ausmus, who had to hold his catcher back. A few pitches later, catcher John Hicks, who replaced McCann, missed a pitch from Tigers starter Buck Farmer (4-3). The pitch struck Wolcott square in the upper chest area. He was down for a few moments but remained in the game.
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