CLEVELAND – The Indians recorded 25 home runs during their 14-game winning streak in 2016, the third longest streak for an American League team in the wild-card era.
This kind of power production helped the defending AL champions outscore their opposition by 55 runs (82-27 margin) and eventually propel them to the top of their division for the rest of the campaign.
Will history repeat itself for a roster with nearly the same composition just one year later?
Consider it a possibility with less than 100 contests remaining.
In their latest string of five victories, the Tribe has blasted 12 long balls en route to 40 runs of explosive offense, 28 of which came in a series sweep over the Twins. The pursuit of another record-breaking run may be in store now that manager Terry Francona and company have some breathing room in the divisional ladder.
“There has been a noticeable change for the better,” said Francona. “I do feel like we’re in a much better place. We’ll get tested but I think we’re in a better position to handle that.”
A collective effort on the offensive side of the ball has been the key so far, especially from Jose Ramirez, Lonnie Chisenhall and Edwin Encarnacion with three consecutive multi-homer performances against the Twins on Saturday and Sunday at Target Field.
“We had a big series here and we did a really good job,” Francona said. “Now, we’ll get on the flight, we’ll turn the page quickly and then we’ll set our sights on Baltimore. That’s our next big series. That’s how we always look at it.”
This game-by-game approach is not only reflected in Francona, but also each player on the Cleveland roster.
“That’s the idea,” said Francona. “I think I was pretty honest about it when we met back in Denver, and then we came home and played the White Sox. You don’t have those types of meetings to win 10 in a row. That doesn’t hit a button.”
One of the solutions as of late has been the well-rounded nature of the Indians batting order. With three different sluggers capable of putting the ball out of the park throughout arguably the biggest weekend of the season, it is no wonder the results have translated to sole possession of first place for the first time since May 11.
“You want to fight,” Chisenhall said. “We’ve been doing well the past week of scratching (runs) back, even in losses. Being annoying in the ninth inning, that’s part of it. It carries over to the following day.”
“We just want to grind those at-bats, win the ballgames we need to win and that’s been happening lately.”
These six home runs/three multi-homer performances help depict the level of prosperity needed to thrive for more than just one game…
HR #1 on Saturday, June 17 in Game 1: Jose Ramirez’s solo home run on a 3-2, 89.3-mph four-seam fastball delivered by LHP Adam Wilk
HR #2 on Saturday, June 17 in Game 1: Jose Ramirez’s two-run homer on a 3-1, 85-mph changeup delivered by RHP Alex Wimmers
HR #1 on Saturday, June 17 in Game 2: Lonnie Chisenhall’s solo home run on an 0-1, 87.1-mph slider delivered by LHP Adalberto Mejia
HR #2 on Saturday, June 17 in Game 2: Lonnie Chisenhall’s three-run homer on a 2-1, 79.1-mph knuckle curve delivered by RHP Tyler Duffey
HR #1 on Sunday, June 18: Edwin Encarnacion’s solo home run on a first pitch, 94.1-mph four-seam fastball delivered by RHP Kyle Gibson
HR #2 on Sunday, June 18: Edwin Encarnacion’s two-run homer on a 1-1, 83.1-mph slider delivered by RHP Kyle Gibson
Although this type of streak is unsustainable, a 10-game winning streak is certainly attainable when starting pitchers can settle in with an overwhelming amount of run support (40 runs) in five contests.
“It’s huge, anytime you give a team the lead, it’s harder to come back,” said Trevor Bauer, a back of the rotation arm that was given a four-run cushion to work with in his victorious outing on Sunday. “We just want to get back to playing how we know we’re capable of playing. We haven’t done that consistently this year, and we’re working through a lot of things as a team, figuring out what it’s going to take for us to get back to that.”
Not only is this winning attitude contagious in a big league clubhouse, but it also instills confidence in even the youngest of players.
“We weren’t playing very good team baseball last series and I think it was kind of a wakeup call,” rookie Bradley Zimmer said. “We know that we have, in my opinion, the best team in the league. I think if we play up to our potential and everyone does what they’ve been doing – contributes offensively, defensively, guys in the bullpen – I think we’ll be just fine.”