CLEVELAND — For more than 100 years, American League teams have gone on winning streaks of varying lengths — short ones, long ones, double-digit ones.
Nothing, though, like the one the Cleveland Indians have pieced together.
A streak for the ages.
Moving past the “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics, the Indians set the AL record with their 21st consecutive win on Wednesday, 5-3 against the Detroit Tigers, to join only two other teams in the past 101 years to win that many consecutive games.
Jay Bruce hit a three-run homer off Buck Farmer (4-3) and Mike Clevinger (10-5) won his fourth consecutive start as the Indians, a team with its sights set on ending the majors’ longest World Series title drought, matched the 1935 Chicago Cubs for the second-longest streak since 1900.
And in doing so, they separated themselves from every AL team since the league was formed in 1901.
“Who would’ve ever thought that we’d be in this situation?” Bruce said. “I can’t even imagine.”
Now that they’ve moved past those 2002 A’s immortalized on film, the Indians are within five wins of catching the 1916 New York Giants, who won 26 in a row without a loss but whose century-old mark includes a tie.
The Indians haven’t lost in 20 days, and they’ve rarely been challenged during a late-season run in which they’ve dominated every aspect of the game.
“I think they’re enjoying themselves,” manager Terry Francona said as clubhouse music boomed in the background. “They should. 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. 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.”
After leading 4-1, the Indians had to overcome a costly error and rely on their bullpen to hold off the Tigers, who have lost 11 of 12 to Cleveland and saw manager Brad Ausmus and catcher James McCann ejected from the series finale.
Roberto Perez added a homer in the seventh and four Cleveland relievers finished, with Cody Allen working the ninth for his 27th save.
With the crowd of 29,346 standing and stomping, Allen retired Ian Kinsler on a sinking liner for the final out, giving the Indians the league’s longest streak since the AL was founded 116 years ago.
There was no big celebration afterward as the Indians simply congratulated one another and stuck to their routine.
“We’re so focused,” said Bruce, who arrived via trade last month from the New York Mets. “I thought we were playing the Royals today. ... Everyone comes here and gets ready to play today and I think that’s something that speaks volumes.”
During their streak, which began with a 13-6 win against Boston ace Chris Sale on Aug. 23, the Indians have rarely been tied, never mind equaled, for nine innings. They have been superior in every way possible.
Cleveland’s starters have gone 19-0 with a 1.70 ERA, they’ve outscored their opponents 139-35 and trailed in only four of 189 innings.
The Indians have hit more home runs (40) than their pitchers have given up in total runs.