Indians Taking Aim At Longest Winning Streaks In MLB History

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Friday September 8th, 2017

The Cleveland Indians entered a three-game weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles having won 15 straight games. Not only have they broken the record for the 117-year-old franchise of 14 games that was set just last year, they have also established the second-longest streak in the majors since the expansion era (going back to 1961). They have since stretched that streak to 19, with the A's and Cubs' streaks within reach against the Tigers this week. That ties Cleveland with the 1947 Yankees for the third longest uninterrupted streak of all-time.

The post-19th century major league record for consecutive wins is 21 by the Cubs in 1935. The overall record is 26 by the 1916 Giants, but that ignores the fact that New York actually had a tie in the 13th game of that 27-game stretch. Excluding other streaks with ties or wrap-arounds to the following season, here are the only ones longer than Cleveland's current tear:

Team

Wins

Dates

1935 Cubs

21

Sept. 4 to Sept. 28

2002 Athletics

20

Aug. 13 to Sept. 6

1947 Yankees

19

June 29 to July 18

2017 Indians 19 Aug. 24 to Present

1953 Yankees

18

May 27 to June 16

1904 Giants

18

June 16 to July 4

Here's a closer look at lengthy winning streaks from the division play era, including the only one the Indians have yet to reach:

 

2002 Oakland Athletics: 20

The mother of all modern winning streaks was produced by Oakland’s third straight postseason-bound, shoestring-budget team. After winning 91 games and the AL West in 2000 and 102 games and the wild card in '01, the '02 A's were 68-51, sitting third in both the division (4 1/2 games behind the Mariners) and the wild card race (2 1/2 games behind the Angels), before beating the Blue Jays in Oakland on Aug. 13. That year's AL Cy Young winner, Barry Zito, pitched eight innings of four-hit ball in the 5-4 win while Jermaine Dye clubbed a three-run homer early and Eric Chavez broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh.

The A's took the series finale the next day, swept three games from the White Sox at home and then ran through a three-city 10-game road trip without a loss. They returned home having won 15 in a row and eventually pushed the streak to 20 in a row, the last three coming on walk-off wins: one against the Twins on a walk-off homer by eventual AL MVP Miguel Tejada, and two against the Royals. Win No. 20, which set an AL record, came on Sept. 4, a game in which Oakland blew an 11-0 lead to a Kansas City team that would lose 100 games that year. With the game tied in the bottom of the ninth, pinch-hitter Scott Hatteberg homered off Jason Grimsley, a moment that provided the centerpiece of Michael Lewis' industry-shaking book Moneyball and the movie of the same name that followed.

By the end of the streak, the A's led the division by three games. They finished with 103 wins and the AL West title, but lost a five-game Division Series to the Twins. 

CORCORAN: How responsible was Moneyball for the success of the A's?

1977 Kansas City Royals: 16

The Royals were created in 1969 and were a contender within two years thanks to an astute front office with outstanding player development acumen. They finished second in the newly-formed AL West in 1971, '73 and '75 before winning their first division title in '76. It would become a habit, as Kansas City would reach the postseason six more times through 1985.

Sluggish out of the gate, the 1977 squad was below .500 as late as June 20 (31-32), at which point the Royals were fifth in the seven-team West, four games behind the Twins. They got hot around the All-Star break (13-2 from July 4 to 22), and took over first place with a 10-game winning streak in mid-August. After dropping three of four, Kansas City kicked off its 16-game run with a 5-4 win over the Rangers on Aug. 31; oddly enough, it culminated in a pair of walkoff wins against the A's in both ends of a doubleheader on Sept. 15, with Pete LaCock singling home Willie Wilson in the 11th inning of the opener and Al Cowens homering in the 10th inning of the nightcap. That was Cowens' fourth homer and 17th RBI of the streak, both team highs; catcher Darrell Porter also homered four times while batting a sizzling .381/.447/.714, and future Hall of Famer George Brett hit .344/.403/.563, with hurlers Dennis Leonard (3-0, 1.00 ERA) and Paul Splittorff (3-0, 1.20 ERA) both dominant.

Overall that meant the Royals had won 35 of their past 39 games. They finished with 102 victories but fell to the Yankees in the best-of-five ALCS when New York rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth for a 5-3 win. 

1991 Minnesota Twins: 15

After upsetting the Cardinals in the 1987 World Series, the Twins won 91 games the following year, then slid to 80-82 (fifth in the AL West) in '89 and 74-88 (seventh) in '90. Aided by the arrival of free agents Jack Morris (a St. Paul native) and Chili Davis as well as AL Rookie of the Year Chuck Knoblauch, Minnesota figured to vacate the AL West basement, but it was still just 23-25, fifth in the division, before Davis' two homers and four RBIs powered them to a win over the Royals on June 1.

Davis went on to add three more homers during the streak and drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of the Twins' June 16 victory over Cleveland, their 15th straight. Kent Hrbek, Shane Mack and Kirby Puckett supplemented the offense, while Morris (3-0, 1.17 ERA), Scott Erickson (3-0, 1.50 ERA), Allan Anderson (3-0, 2.18 ERA) and Kevin Tapani (2-0, 1.59 ERA) all put the clamps on opponents. The streak carried Minnesota into first place, and the team never lost possession of at least a share of the top spot. The Twins' Cinderella season culminated with one of the most thrilling World Series wins ever, as they beat the Braves in a Fall Classic featuring a pair of worst-to-first teams. Puckett's 11th-inning walkoff homer made the difference in Game 6 and Morris tossed 10 innings of shutout ball opposite John Smoltz in Game 7.

2000 Atlanta Braves: 15

The reigning NL champs had been swept by the Yankees in the World Series—their fifth Fall Classic berth in the '90s—but started the new century just 5-6 before catching fire. On April 16, it was Terry Mulholland's eight strong innings that carried Atlanta to a 2-1 win over the Brewers, and Mulholland was on the mound again for the club's 15th straight victory, over the Dodgers on May 2, though that night Andruw Jones played the hero with a go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning.

The staff standout was Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, who went 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA, while Kevin Millwood (3-0, 1.71), Mulholland (3-0, 2.10) and Greg Maddux (2-0, 2.49) were tough customers as well (John Smoltz missed that season due to Tommy John surgery). Jones hit .351/.439/.649 with four homers during the streak, with Andres Galarraga adding six homers. The streak carried the Braves into first place in the NL East; they would finish with 95 wins and claim their ninth of 14 division titles from 1991-2005 (all but 1994) by a single game over the Mets, but they were swept out of the Division Series by the Cardinals.

2001 Seattle Mariners: 15

Despite losing Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez within a 2 1/2-year span, the 2001 Mariners had no shortage of star power thanks to mainstay designated hitter Edgar Martinez, slugging second baseman Bret Boone and Japanese newcomer Ichiro Suzuki, their rightfielder. Seattle was already off to an amazing 32-12 start when it outlasted the Twins for a 5-4, come-from-behind win on May 23 in Minnesota. Martinez homered that day, the first of four he'd hit while batting .438/.517/.812 during the streak. The juggernaut offense scored at least seven runs 10 times in the 15-game span, with Boone homering six times and Suzuki collecting 23 of the league-high 242 he'd wind up with en route to AL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors, not to mention a batting title.

By the time the Mariners finally lost on June 9, they were well on their way to matching the 1906 Cubs' longstanding record of 116 wins and setting a new mark for the Expansion Era. Alas, Seattle fell to the Yankees in a six-game ALCS and hasn't been back to the playoffs since.

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