Sweet 16: Indians roll to 16th straight, 5-0 over Orioles
CLEVELAND (AP) — On the road or on their home turf, the Cleveland Indians won't lose.
Their winning streak — now at a sweet 16 — rolls on.
Edwin Encarnacion hit a three-run homer in the first inning and the Indians won their 16th straight, extending the best streak in franchise history — and the longest in the majors in 15 years — by beating the Baltimore Orioles 5-0 Friday night.
Encarnacion's shot to straightaway center easily cleared the wall and landed in some trees next to Heritage Park, the team's hallowed area where past Cleveland stars and teams are immortalized.
These 2017 Indians are making a case for their inclusion.
"We're having a lot of fun here," said Mike Clevinger (9-5), who allowed just three hits in six innings.
Cleveland's string is the longest in the majors since the Oakland Athletics won 20 straight in 2002. The Indians, who have only trailed for two of 144 innings during the streak, are now five wins from matching the longest winning streak in major league history, 21 by the 1935 Chicago Cubs.
The 1916 New York Giants had a string of 26 wins, but that run included a tie.
Not only have the Indians not lost since Aug. 23, the defending AL champions have trailed only twice in 144 innings during the 16-game span and have outscored their opponents 114-28.
"They're playing pretty good baseball," Indians manager Terry Francona said in a classic understatement. "That's a really good lineup that our guys kept off the board."
The Orioles were the latest team to run into the Indians and managed just four hits in the opener of a 10-day trip. Baltimore began the day two games back in the nine-team, wild-card scramble.
"They're leading the league in starting pitching and relief pitching, so you know that runs are going to come at a premium," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "They played good defense and pitched well. That's a good combination."
Clevinger (9-5) improved his chances to pitch in the postseason with six strong innings as AL Central leaders became just the third team in the expansion era — since 1961 — to win 16 straight in a season, joining the 2002 A's and Kansas City Royals, who also won 16 in a row.
"You try not to think too much about the streak," Clevinger said. "Your eyes are still set on the same goals that we first started out with, but it gives it more of a playoff atmosphere — at least in the stands. You can definitely see the energy and feel the energy around the crowd and it kind of gave it that October feeling."
Encarnacion hit his 34th home run, connecting off Wade Miley (8-12) and that was plenty for Clevinger, who had his third straight six-inning scoreless outing.
He's gone 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his last three starts, and with Danny Salazar struggling, the 26-year-old Clevinger could factor heavily into Cleveland's playoff pitching plans as the club tries to get back to the World Series.
The Indians have posted five shutouts during the streak and lead the majors with 17, the team's most since 1976.
Indians All-Star reliever Andrew Miller threw 44 pitches off the mound as he nears a return from knee tendinitis. The left-hander, who has been out since Aug. 22 and not been a part of the Indians' surge, is expected to pitch in simulated games next week. Miller said the session went well and he's eager to take the next step.
"I want to pitch," he said. "I want to get in games. These are the adjustments I need to make. At this point, I'm happy with everything."
Orioles: SS J.J. Hardy was activated from the 60-day disabled list after being out nearly three months with a broken right wrist. He was hit by a pitch on June 18. For now, Showalter is sticking with Tim Beckham, who entered the series batting .359 with seven homers and 20 RBIs since coming over in a deadline trade.
Indians. 2B Jason Kipnis (hamstring) is increasing his baseball activities and could also play in simulated games in the coming days. ... OF Michael Brantley (ankle) has not been cleared to run unassisted. "He's frustrated," manager Terry Francona said.
RHP Gabriel Ynoa, recently recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, makes his first start this season for Baltimore against RHP Josh Tomlin, who held Detroit to one run over 5 2-3 innings in his previous start. Ynoa replaces struggling Chris Tillman, headed to the bullpen.