Cleveland Indians magic number to clinch AL Central

The Cleveland Indians have won 20 games in a row and are on the cusp of clinching the AL Central with authority.

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The Cleveland Indians have won 20 consecutive games and have seen their magic number shrink to a mere 5. At this rate, it wouldn’t be surprising if Cleveland wrapped up the AL Central crown later this week.

The Indians’ streak ties the American League record set by the 2002 Oakland A’s. Next is the 21-game streak set by the Chicago Cubs in 1935 and if Cleveland can go beyond that, their magic number could be put on the back burner for overall World Series prospects.

Where the Indians stand now

The Indians are now the best team in the American League thanks to their current streak and also enjoy a healthy lead in the AL Central. Cleveland leads the second-place Minnesota Twins by a wide 13.5 game margin and is just running on all cylinders both in the lineup and in the rotation.

First, shortstop Francisco Lindor is probably baseball’s most dangerous leadoff man. The 23-year-old switch-hitter is batting .276 with 30 home runs and 78 RBI and is well on his way to a 5 WAR season. Thinking about it now, Lindor is quite possibly a dark-horse candidate for AL MVP.

Infielder Jose Ramirez, meanwhile, is batting over .300 and also has value as a switch hitter. Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion have combined for 57 home runs. If key bats in Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley can come back at full strength, the lineup is all the stronger.

Oh, and let’s not forget ace Corey Kluber winning his 16th game of the season and putting himself in an even greater position to upset Chris Sale for the AL Cy Young? Kluber lowered his AL-best ERA to 2.44 in last night’s shutout over the Detroit Tigers and is now 3-0 with a 1.12 ERA in September.

Throw in Carlos Carrasco and the revitalized Trevor Bauer, and Cleveland’s pitching is probably stronger than its lineup.

The road ahead

The best Cleveland can hope for over the rest of the season and the playoffs is that everyone stays healthy. On top of Kipnis and Brantley being injured, star outfield prospect Bradley Zimmer just had surgery on his broken hand and is expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks. That puts his return in mid-November, long after the conclusion of the postseason.

And Cleveland is in a prime position to maintain this strong pace. Tomorrow’s series with Detroit concludes tomorrow and will then face the Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins, and Chicago White Sox. The Angels and Twins are the only real postseason contenders of that group, but there’s a catch.

Only six road games remain for the Indians, but all six are on the West Coast. This is an odd time for a team to do its west coast road trip, and there’s no telling if the travel and time zone adjustments will affect Cleveland in the long run.

The good news is that Cleveland has all of the momentum in the world now and is showing no signs of slowing down. The streak does not need to continue for the team’s sake, but it sure is making for some great baseball and establishing the Indians as a strong postseason contender.