Who’s going to stop the Cleveland Indians? When it comes to October, your New York Yankees could be in a position to try.
If the current standings hold, the Indians — winners of an American League-record 22 straight games before finally losing late last week — would finish with the best record in the AL.
The Yankees currently are the AL’s top wild-card team. If that holds, and if they win the wild-card playoff game, the Yankees will face the Indians in a five-game ALDS.
“If it’s them, it would be awesome,” first baseman Greg Bird said. “You want to match up against the best. I guess they are the best, and you’ve got to beat the best. Obviously, right now they’re playing well and playing great baseball. But we are, too.”
The Yankees went 2-5 against Cleveland this season, including the Indians’ three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 28-30, aka wins 5-7 in the record streak. The last two were a doubleheader sweep after a rainout.
A seven-game winning streak is pretty nice. No one knew that the Indians were going to keep going . . . and going . . . and going.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Thursday before the Indians won their 22nd in a row with a last-strike comeback in the ninth and former Met Jay Bruce’s walk-off double in the 10th. “I really don’t care what level you’re at in professional baseball. Someone’s due to have a bad night on the pitching staff. They went 21 days without having one, really. It’s truly incredible. Just what they’ve done has been remarkable.”
The Indians boast ace Corey Kluber (16-4, 2.44 ERA), who seems to have vaulted over Boston’s Chris Sale (16-7, 2.86) as the AL Cy Young Award favorite. Kluber is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA against the Yankees this season and 5-1, 1.80 in seven career starts.
“He can throw anything at any count,” Bird said. “He can control it where he wants. He’s got four good pitches or whatever it is. He’s got good stuff, command’s good, and he knows how to pitch. That’s a really good combo.”
Kluber, who could start Games 1 and 5 (if necessary) at home, is 9-2 with a 1.93 ERA this season at Cleveland’s Progressive Field.
So it would be a pretty tough assignment for the boys from the Bronx, especially considering they’d likely use top starter Luis Severino in the wild-card game.
But while the Yankees have plenty of respect for the Indians’ streak, they also understand that October can be a different animal.
“It’s good to be in the playoffs no matter what,” Starlin Castro said. “We have to play. We have a good team also. I remember in 2015 with the Cubs, we played against the Mets.”
Ah, good recent memory from Castro about how you throw out the records (or streaks) once the postseason begins. Castro recalled that the Cubs went 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season in 2015 before losing four straight in the NLCS. “It’s baseball,” he said. “Whoever we’re going to face, we just play hard and do the best.”
If it happens, it will be exciting. Recently, you had major-league players acting like kids, checking the scoreboard to follow the Indians’ streak and trying to remember the longest one in their own careers:[/DROPCAP]
n “I honestly couldn’t tell you,” Bird said. “Definitely not 22.”
n “I don’t know,” Castro said. “I think eight, the most.”
n “Maybe high school,” said former Indians prospect Clint Frazier, who came to the Yankees in a 2016 trade. “But dude, they’re just unbelievable right now.”