The Cleveland Indians powered their way into baseball history Wednesday afternoon, setting an American League record with their 21st consecutive victory, a 5-3 conquest of the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field.
Home runs by Jay Bruce and Roberto Perez – giving them 41 homers in the streak — lifted the Indians past the 2002 Oakland Athletics for the AL record, and tied the 1935 Chicago Cubs at 21 wins in a row.
A victory Thursday night against the Kansas City Royals would leave only the 1916 New York Giants — who won 26 consecutive games — ahead of the Indians.
However, the Giants’ streak included one tie game. Major League Baseball and the Elias Sports Bureau — MLB’s official statistician — both recognize the Giants’ streak as the longest in major league history.
"I have given that zero thought," said manager Terry Francona. "I promise you I have given that zero thought."
Those semantics are for another day. Wednesday, the Indians gifted a crowd of 29,346 a record victory, as their stunning run of indomitable baseball stretched toward autumn.
“It feels like October," Bruce said in an on-field, postgame interview. "We all appreciate it. It’s been a fun ride, man."
This time, the Indians faced adversity, relative to the rest of their run.
The Tigers took a 1-0, first-inning lead on a Jeimar Candelario double, just the fourth time that the Indians (90-56) have trailed since this streak began on Aug. 24.
Bruce, acquired on Aug. 9 from the New York Mets, continued his star turn with the Indians in the bottom of the inning, erasing the deficit with a three-run home run off Tigers starter Buck Farmer.
Indians starter Mike Clevinger was dominant at times, striking out six in 5 2/3 innings, but gave up some solid contact and, ultimately, three runs to the Tigers. But after Andrew Romine’s single brought Detroit within 4-3 in the sixth, Perez responded with a seventh-inning home run to stretch it to 5-3.
Giovanny Urshela made a pair of sparkling defensive plays to work around an error by set-up man Bryan Shaw in the eighth inning, and Cody Allen closed it for his 27th save.
Clevinger’s win was the 19th by an Indians starting pitcher in the streak.
Their magic number to clinch the AL Central was reduced to four. Even Las Vegas is on board, installing them as co-favorites with the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the World Series.
Yet, even if the Indians can't win one more postseason game than they did last year - when they fell to the Chicago Cubs in Game 7 of the World Series - this team will still go down in history.
They made sure of that Wednesday.