Cleveland's Edwin Encarnacion hits an RBI single off Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Buck Farmer during the third inning of Wednesday's win. ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Cleveland Indians’ win streak would be old enough to raise a glass Wednesday if it were a person, reaching 21 with a matinee win over the Detroit Tigers.
While Cleveland toasts the Tribe, here’s a trio of things that have become clear as the team wrote itself into history.
1. This team has depth: I wouldn’t want to have to put together the Indians’ postseason roster at this point. Cleveland has run through three weeks’ of victories without injured All-Star reliever Andrew Miller, All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley, and former All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis, while former All-Star pitcher Danny Salazar has been relegated to the bullpen. It hasn’t mattered one iota. Youngsters such as infielders Erik Gonzalez, Yandy Diaz, and Giovanny Urshela, outfielders Brad Zimmer and Greg Allen, starter Mike Clevinger, and reliever Tyler Olson have all picked up the slack and done it well. Cleveland will have to make some difficult cuts to the postseason roster.
2. The kids are all right: Francisco Lindor is 23 and hit 30 homers at shortstop, cementing his status as one of the best young players in the game. Jose Ramirez is 24 and will be in the running for the AL MVP while playing just about every spot on the infield. Zimmer is 24 and acquitted himself well when he took over as the team’s center fielder for much of the year. Trevor Bauer has turned from mercurial drone fan to cold-blooded assassin on the mound at 26, and Clevinger looks like a bona fide starter at the same age even if his hair makes him look about a decade younger. The oldest player on the team is 34-year-old slugger Edwin Encarnacion, and he’s three years ahead of any other key contributor. Not only do the Indians have one of the game’s best cores, it’s one of the youngest.
3. This team can win the World Series: In mid-July, the Indians were 48-45, hardly what was expected from a team nearly every analyst thought would contend for the crown during spring training. It took a while for the squad to mesh, but clearly those concerns are now out the window. Many Cleveland fans spent the first 3½ months of the season deriding this team as overrated — weird for a city that worships the losing Browns and hasn’t had a ton of great baseball to watch in the past decade, either — but even the harshest of critics has to believe at this point that the Indians could achieve something special. Will they? Of course it’s impossible to know in the crapshoot of postseason baseball. But the talent and depth are there in all the key spots, and magic doesn’t seem to be in short supply as well.