What’s crazier is that Cleveland is actually playing better than its winning streak.
Whenever a team goes on a long winning streak, you would expect luck to play a part. That is to say, you would expect the team to win a few one-run games, to have some crazy comebacks, to steal a game or two that it had no business winning. This is the character of baseball, where bad teams beat good teams all the time. The Los Angeles Dodgers somehow still have the best record in baseball; the San Francisco Giants have the second worst. Those teams have played 15 times this year. The Giants have won seven of those 15.
So, yes, you would expect for any team — even a team as wonderful as the Tribe — to need a little bit of fortune and serendipity to win 20 games in a row. And that’s the thing: Cleveland has not needed any of that.
That is the total number of frames in this crazy streak when Cleveland has actually trailed. Four innings. This team has been so absurdly commanding during this streak that after beating Detroit 2-0 for win No. 20 — and never really being threatened — pitcher Corey Kluber remarked that this was a tougher game than most of them.
“We’ve had so many blowouts,” he said with awe in his voice.
Yes, they have. Four innings — that’s all the Indians have trailed.
Here’s the game-by-game rundown.
Win 1, Aug. 24 vs. Boston
Took a 7-1 lead early, rolled to 13-6 victory. Never trailed. Recap
Win 2, Aug. 25 vs. Kansas City
Took a 2-0 lead in the third, cruised to 4-0 win. Shutout No. 1. Never trailed. Recap
Win 3, Aug. 26 vs. Kansas City
Didn’t take the lead until the sixth, but still cruised to another 4-0 win. Shutout No. 2. Never trailed. Recap
Win 5, Aug. 28 at Yankees
Finally, the Indians trailed. With the score tied in the bottom of the fifth at Yankee Stadium, New York’s Todd Frazier singled in Jacoby Ellsbury to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. The Yanks led for roughly nine minutes before Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez tied it with a homer, and the Tribe rolled from there for a 6-2 victory. Trailed one inning. Recap
Win 6, Aug. 30 at Yankees
First game in doubleheader, Cleveland scored two in the first and made it stand up for a 2-1 victory. I was at this game; beautiful afternoon, clear blue sky, the Yankees did threaten a couple of times. Never trailed.Recap
Win 7, Aug. 30 at Yankees
Second game in doubleheader, Cleveland scored four in the first and won by blowout, 9-4. Never trailed. Recap
Win 8, Sept. 1 at Detroit
Another doubleheader, and this is the testiest game of the streak so far, Cleveland led 1-0 and 2-1, but the Tigers came back to tie both times. The Tribe put it away in the ninth on Lindor’s run-scoring single; Cleveland won, 3-2. Never trailed. Recap
Win 9, Sept. 1 at Detroit
Second game of the doubleheader, not testy at all. Cleveland won, 10-0, despite not playing Lindor or Ramirez. In their place, Giovanny Urshela and Erik Gonzalez went 5-for-10 with two doubles and three RBIs. Shutout No. 4. Never trailed. Recap
Win 10, Sept. 2 at Detroit
Scored four in the first, breezed to 5-2 victory. Never trailed. Recap
Win 11, Sept. 3 at Detroit
Three doubles and two homers for Ramirez in 11-1 victory. Never trailed. Recap
Win 12, Sept. 4 at White Sox
This one was somewhat prickly; the White Sox did keep coming back but never quite all the way back. Cleveland led, 3-0, Chicago scored two. Cleveland led, 4-2, Chicago scored 1. Ramirez homered in the eighth to put the game on ice, 5-3. Never trailed. Recap
Win 13, Sept. 5 at White Sox
Trail alert! Cleveland scored three in the first inning, so this seemed like it would be yet another walkaway … but the White Sox scored four in the bottom of the first to take the lead. Exciting! Cleveland was so distraught after blowing the lead that it took the Tribe roughly nine minutes to tie the game (on a Ramirez home run, of course), and the next inning Greg Allen hit a two-run double, and later Gomez hit a three-run homer. The final score was a not-too-dramatic 9-4. Trailed one inning. Recap
Win 14, Sept. 6 at White Sox
Casual 5-1 victory — the White Sox scored their run in the bottom of the ninth to spoil what would have been Cleveland’s fifth shutout of the streak. Never trailed. Recap
Win 17, Sept. 9 vs. Orioles
And here is the latest of the trailing innings — Baltimore scored one run in the first inning and held on to that lead until Urshela’s run-scoring double in the third inning. Trailed for two innings. Recap
Win 18, Sept. 10 vs. Orioles
Baltimore stayed tough … the score was tied going into the bottom of the sixth, when Roberto Perez and Lindor hit back-to-back homers. Baltimore’s Chris Davis homered in the seventh, but that’s where it ended, with Cleveland winning 3-2. Never trailed. Recap
Win 19, Sept. 11 vs. Tigers
Cleveland had enough of those tough games — it put this one away early with five runs in the second inning. Final: 11-0. Shutout No. 6. Never trailed. Recap
Win 20, Sept. 12 vs. Tigers
Lindor’s homer in the first was all Kluber needed — Cleveland won 2-0 to tie Oakland for the record. Shutout No. 7. Never trailed. Recap
It is absolutely incredible. Seven shutouts in 20 games. Outscored their opponents, 134-32. And the only innings Cleveland has trailed over 20 games:
1. End of the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium. Tied it in the top of the sixth.
2. End of the first inning at Guaranteed Rate Field: Tied it in the top of the second.
3. End of the first and second innings against Baltimore at home: Tied it in the bottom of the third.
Insanity. It’s hard to say the Indians even trailed four innings, since twice they tied up the score their very next opportunity.
One other thing to point out: This Cleveland lineup does not fool around. It has been scoring early. The Tribe has outscored teams, 53-9, in the first two innings during the streak. That’s ridiculous.
But, really, it’s all ridiculous.
Joe Posnanski is a No. 1 New York Times best-selling author, an Emmy Award-winning writer and has been awarded National Sportswriter of the Year. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.