The Cleveland Indians have won 13 games in a row and are officially the team to beat in the American League. The Tribe extended their streak last night with a 9-4 win over the Chicago White Sox and have taken down the Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, and even the New York Yankees during this streak for the ages.
Say what you may about Cleveland not facing top competition for most of this streak. The fact of the matter is that this squad is running on all cylinders and ready to make its Game 7 loss in last year's World Series a thing of the past.
If this type of play keeps up, look for that goal to become a reality.
Cleveland at the plate
A tremendous boon for Cleveland is its young lineup that seems able to do everything. The man on fire right now is infielder Jose Ramirez, who is batting .311 on the season and has five home runs in his last three games. Ramirez has a career high 25 home runs this year to go with 69 RBI, plus 15 stolen bases and an excellent 5.2 WAR.
Ramirez is joined by the equally effective Francisco Lindor, who may just be the best young shortstop in baseball. Lindor is only batting .270, but has set a new career high with 26 home runs and has incredible value as a switch-hitter.
Cleveland's lineup only continues to look better from there. Carlos Santana is another switch-hitter who has solid power at the plate. Marquee free agent signing Edwin Encarnacion has 32 home runs this year. Michael Brantley is a fine contact hitter when healthy and Bradley Zimmer is well on his way to being a star outfielder.
Each of these players is a reason the Indians rank seventh in both runs scored and batting average and third in OPS. The way the team has been playing as of late, the AL Central crown is all but guaranteed.
Cleveland on the mound
And what's a fine offense without a strong pitching staff to back it up? Cleveland's arms rank second in baseball behind the Los Angeles Dodgers with a staff ERA of 3.51 and are also in a multi-way tie for fourth with 72 quality starts. The Indians also have 16 shutouts, the highest total in the Majors.
And multiple arms are responsible for this. Carlos Carrasco has 13 wins and could finish with a 4+ WAR season. Trevor Baur has a less than average 4.39 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, but also has 15 wins and is 6-0 with 2.39 ERA in his last eight starts. Closer Cody Allen is en route to another strong year and dominant lefty Andrew Miller, though currently out with a knee injury, has a 1.65 ERA and 79 strikeouts in just 54.2 innings of work.
The real star of the pitching show, however, is none other than Corey Kluber. The former AL Cy Young Award winner is in a great position to challenge Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale for the same award this year despite missing a month of action with a back injury. Kluber is 14-4 on the year with an AL-best 2.56 ERA and 222 strikeouts in a mere 168.2 innings, plus a 6.5 WAR. He is 6-1 with a 1.83 ERA since August 3 and, unlike Sale, has shown no signs of slowing down.
Combine Cleveland's great pitching with a strong young lineup, and it's hard to see them stumbling in the postseason up against fellow AL squads.