Eighteen in a row for the Cleveland Indians! They beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 as Trevor Bauer won his ninth straight decision, Francisco Lindor powered his 29th home run and Cody Allen closed it out. The Indians have hit 37 home runs in their winning streak and they've been so dominant that this was only their third one-run game of the streak.
The last team with a longer streak was the 2002 A's of "Moneyball" fame, with a 20-game streak -- the 20th win was the Scott Hatteberg Home Run Game (the A's blew an 11-0 lead before winning on Hatteberg's walk-off home run). The Indians can pass those A's if they sweep the Detroit Tigers in a home series that starts on Monday. If that happens, they would tie the 1935 Cubs for the longest winning streak ever. The longest unbeaten streak belongs to the 1916 Giants, who won 26 in a row but had a tie game in there.
Anyway, this is simply awesome to watch. Against the Tigers, the Indians will start Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger. The Tigers will start Matt Boyd, Myles Jaye and Buck Farmer. I know all it takes is one bad outing by a starter or one gem from an opposing pitcher, but given the way Carrasco, Kluber and Clevinger have been pitching, I'm calling: The Indians will reach 21 in a row.
Lindor, by the way, has had a huge second half, hitting .307/.368/.561, with eight home runs during the 18-game win streak. His 29 home runs are the third-most ever for a shortstop before his 24th birthday. The other two are both named Alex Rodriguez. In a telling note about how good things are going for the Indians, Lindor borrowed Abraham Almonte's bat for the home run after breaking his. He smiled all the way around the bases, not to show up the pitcher but because he couldn't believe he hit one out with Almonte's bat, which he said after the game has the same handle but is heavier than his own.
He also made a few friends before the game:
Down go the Los Angeles Dodgers. Again. After losing 8-1 to the Colorado Rockies, that's 10 in a row and 15 losses in 16 games, making them the first team in MLB history to win 15 of 16 and lose 15 of 16 in the same season. One thing we've learned is the answer to this question:
Hey, at least we included the question mark. pic.twitter.com/hG8EWb0jso— Emma Span (@emmaspan) September 11, 2017
One thing worth pointing out is that during this 16-game skid, 12 of the 16 games have come against "good" teams -- above .500. When they went 56-11 from June 7 to Aug. 25, just 20 of those 67 games came against winning teams (and the Twins were under .500 when the Dodgers played them). They did go 16-4 against the good teams, but it's also true they benefited some from a soft schedule over an extended period.
With that in mind, I thought I'd check the records of the National League playoff contenders against winning teams:
Washington Nationals: 28-25
Chicago Cubs: 29-33
Arizona Diamondbacks: 37-33
Milwaukee Brewers: 37-34
St. Louis Cardinals: 26-38
Nationals clinch NL East. This is the Nationals' fourth NL East title in six seasons, but the first back-to-back division title in franchise history. In fact, manager Dusty Baker has won seven division titles in his career, but it's also the first time he has won in back-to-back years.
Stephen Strasburg fanned 10 in eight scoreless innings in the 3-2 win over the Phillies, and he has now spun four straight scoreless starts to improve to 13-4 with a 2.64 ERA. Even though he missed nearly a month with that nerve impingement, this will be the best season of his career. He had already reached a career-best 5.0 WAR before Sunday's start and he has allowed a career-low .264 wOBA. The thing I like is he also went nine innings a couple starts ago -- so that's two starts of eight-plus innings in three outings, after having not pitched eight innings all season (and he did it only twice all of 2016). This is peak Strasburg and that's a good thing for the Nationals.
They didn't officially clinch until the Braves beat the Marlins, so it was a clubhouse celebration (and then they went out and thanked the fans who had hung out and watched the end of the Braves-Marlins game on the Jumbotron):
First. pic.twitter.com/VO8VXjbopp— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 11, 2017
How hot is J.D. Martinez? Almost as hot as Giancarlo Stanton. After losing two in a row following their 13-game winning streak, the Diamondbacks beat the Padres 3-2 as Martinez slugged two home runs (and Paul Goldschmidt homered on his birthday).
Since his debut with Arizona on July 19, Martinez has now hit 21 home runs. Comparison!
Martinez since July 19: .269/.342/.701, 21 HRs, 45 RBIs
Stanton since July 19: .293/.405/.755, 25 HRs, 50 RBIs
Josh Donaldson, Joey Gallo and Gary Sanchez are next with 16 each. Oh, Robbie Ray had another big game with 12 K's in six innings and Archie Bradley closed it out for his first career save, leading to former teammate Dan Haren's tweet of the day:
@ArchieBradley7 Welcome to the exclusive "one career save club". 🍻— dan haren (@ithrow88) September 10, 2017
Wild-card winner of the day. It has to be the Rockies, right? With the Brewers and now the Cardinals hanging close, going into Dodger Stadium and sweeping the slumping Dodgers in four games was absolutely huge, especially since the Brewers swept the Cubs and the Cardinals swept the Pirates in three-game series.
In fact, that Brewers-Cubs series means we're now looking at four teams fighting for two spots:
The Rockies have another big series ahead, with four games at Arizona, and they'll finish the series hosting the Dodgers. In between, however, are 12 games against the Padres, Giants and Marlins. The Cubs, meanwhile, are suddenly no lock for the postseason. They'll host St. Louis next weekend and then have a 10-game road trip to face Tampa Bay (two games), Milwaukee (four games) and St. Louis (four games). As crazy as the American League wild-card race has been, we could end up with this fun scenario in the NL: A three-way tie for the NL Central, with the Rockies having the same record. Here's the tiebreaker scenario for that possibility, from MLB.com:
After Clubs have been assigned their A, B, C and D designations (In this case, Club D would be the Club outside the Division), Club A would host Club B and Club C would host Club D.
1. If Club D wins, it would be declared the wild-card club and the winner of the game between Club A and Club B would be declared the division champion.
2. If Club C wins, then the winner of the game between Club A and Club B would host Club C. The winner of the game would be declared the division champion and the loser would be declared the wild-card club.
Wild-card loser of the day. I'll go with the Orioles. They had a chance to gain ground on the Twins, who lost Saturday and Sunday to the Royals, but the O's ran into the Cleveland buzz saw and fell a game under .500 and still three back of the Twins.
One final note. The standings for best record in the AL:
Houston Astros: 86-57
What kind of weekend did the Astros have? Even worse than the Dodgers. The A's swept them, winning 9-8 on Friday when they scored twice in the bottom of the ninth; sweeping a doubleheader on Saturday by scores of 11-1 and 11-4; and then winning 10-2 on Sunday with four home runs.