The Indians streak is amazing, but also can be dangerous.
Good for the Cleveland Indians, for most of the last 60 years a perennial also-ran in the American League. Yes, they have had some good seasons and made the playoffs, but currently possess the longest World Series drought in the Majors, 68 years after the heartbreaking loss to the Cubs in seven games last fall.
Cleveland has shaken the losers’ town tag after hiring manager Terry Francona who won two world championships in Boston. Now, the Indians are on a record-breaking streak of a lifetime, having set a new American League mark of 21 consecutive wins. They are five away from the old New York Giants’ record of 26 straight in 1916, the pre-modern era of baseball.
But what will the streak do to the Indians’ post-season chances, even if they don’t lose again before the playoffs start? Remember the undefeated Patriots in 2007, playing with pressure before losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl. Well, for one, Cleveland may have lost the most advantageous match-up in the playoffs, a best-of-five series with the Red Sox they swept last year and don’t seem to fear at all.
The Indians have blown past the Houston Astros for the best record in the American League, which means they will face the winner of the wild card game, likely between the Yankees and the Twins, likely to be in New York. The Yanks will be heavily favored to win that play-in game and, despite being swept by Cleveland in their last series, are built to beat the Indians with a solid front-end pitching rotation.
Most importantly, what happens when the Indians cool off and are playing to survive and advance rather than to keep a winning streak going? Will they have run out of gas, find the playoffs a different animal and be shocked into submission?
A winning streak builds confidence, so much so that a team can start to believe it will win every time it takes the field. When it loses and things stop going their way, how quickly can they recapture the magic in a short series and refocus on the ultimate goal, winning the World Series?