UPDATE (8pm PT on Tuesday): The Indians equaled the A's 20-game winning streak with a 2-0 win over the Tigers on Tuesday in Cleveland.
BOSTON — The Cleveland Indians’ incredible 19-game winning streak is just one shy of the American League record for most consecutive victories.
As they attempt to tie the 2002 A’s AL-record mark of 20 in a row, there’s a natural comparison to make between that squad and the current Cleveland bunch. Here’s a breakdown of the similarities — and differences — between these two amazing feats:
**Both streaks began around the same time of the season, bridging August and September, cementing both as legitimate postseason threats. The A’s streak ran from Aug. 13-Sept.4. The Indians began their torrid run Aug. 24 and it’s still going entering Tuesday's home game against the Detroit Tigers.
**There’s arguments for both over which streak is more memorable, but there’s no doubt that Cleveland’s has been flat-out more dominant. A look at some of the key numbers during each team’s respective streak. Keep in mind the A’s numbers are through 20 games, and the Indians’ only 19:
The Indians’ pitching staff has thrown six shutouts during Cleveland’s streak. The 2002 A’s threw just two, but in eight of their wins they held opponents to two or fewer runs. And excellent starting pitching is a hallmark of both streaks.
Oak: plus-76 (they outscored opponents 141-65)
Clev: plus-100 (a 132-32 margin)
The Indians are flat-out steamrolling opponents, trailing in just four of 171 innings they’ve played. The A’s? In 14 of their 20 wins, they never trailed. But they also offered fans an absolute thrill ride with three walk-offs in games No. 18, 19 and 20.
***One edge the 2002 A’s do hold over the Indians— they faced a lot tougher challenge within their division during their streak, so you could argue their 20-gamer was more pressure-packed. When the A’s began their streak, they were 68-51 and in third place in the AL West behind the Mariners and Angels. Twenty victories later, they were in first place, but only by 3 1/2 games. That cushion would have been larger if not for the Angels going 14-6 during the same 20-game stretch.
The Indians already were on top of the AL Central by 4 1/2 games, at 69-56, when they started their streak. That lead has since ballooned to 13 1/2 games because the Minnesota Twins, their closest division competition, has gone a pedestrian 9-8 during the same stretch. But, to the Indians’ credit, they’ve made a mad charge to pass the Astros for the best record in the league, which could ultimately land them the top seed in the AL playoff bracket.
***Let’s not forget the Hollywood angle here: Brad Pitt played Billy Beane in the Grammy-nominated movie “Moneyball”, which revolved around the A’s 2002 season. The Indians were the centerpiece to the hilarious 1989 comedy “Major League,” with the plot built partly around the franchise’s decades-long history of losing.
Two completely different kinds of movies, each excellent in their own way. It depends on your cinematic tastes.
***In the big picture, the question boils down to this: Where did these two winning streaks ultimately take their teams? The A’s 20-gamer catapulted them to 103 wins and the AL West title. But they fell in five games to the Twins in the AL Division Series, a letdown after all they accomplished in the regular season.
Will the Indians’ winning streak pave the way to their first World Series crown since 1948? That drama has yet to play out.