Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Indians are Going Streaking! (UPDATED)

On July 26th the Indians played the Tigers. Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in baseball, was on the mound for Detroit. Cleveland was down by two going into the bottom of the 7th; Verlander was cruising, he'd given up just 3 hits all night and looked well on his way to another complete game. But Carlos Santana hit the first pitch of the inning into the rightfield seats and Travis Hafner hit the second pitch of the inning into the centerfield seats, suddenly the game was tied. Three more hits led to two more runs, putting the Indians ahead, and they held on from there for a 5-3 win. The victory pushed their record to 50-49, a hair above .500, and left them 3.5 games out of first place in the American League Central. I certainly didn't consider them likely to win the division, but they were in the picture.

* In 1901 the Cleveland Blues (they weren't known as the Indians until 1915) debuted in the new American League. Things did not start well, as less than two weeks into that first season, the team lost 11 straight games. The Blues were outscored 71-32 during that streak, an average score of 6.5 to 2.9, for an average margin of defeat of 3.6 runs.

On July 27th the Indians began a nine-game road trip in Minnesota. The Twins entered that game with the worst record in the American League. That night, Minnesota exploded for eleven runs. Indians starter Josh Tomlin gave up eight of those runs and was chased from the game during the 5th inning. Cleveland had just three hits and scored zero runs, only the third time all season the Twins shut a team out. It was only the 11th time all season that any team had been shutout while allowing ten or more runs, and ugly, ugly game for the Indians.

* In 1905 the Naps (now named after their star player, Nap Lajoie) were dominating the A.L. during the first-half of the season. Their record stood at 53-31 the morning of July 27th, when suddenly they went into a tailspin, losing 10 games in a row. They were outscored 59-30 during that streak, an average score of 5.9 to 3.0, for an average margin of defeat of 2.9 runs.

On July 28th the Indians managed to score some runs, five of them in fact. Four of those five runs came late though, and by the time it got to be late in the game, the game was way out of hand, because the Twins offense decided to outdo itself and score twelve runs this go round, their new second-highest output of the season. Minnesota hadn't scored double-digits runs in consecutive games all season until this. Justin Masterson lasted all the way to the 6th inning, but gave up ten runs along the way. A second very ugly loss in a row.

* Late in 1909 the Naps set off on a four-week road trip to end their season (that's right, FOUR WEEKS). During that trip, they managed to lose 11 straight games. They were outscored 57-15 during that streak, an average score of 5.2 to 1.4 (!), for an average margin of defeat of 3.8 runs.

On July 29th the Indians Ubaldo Jimenez made it to the 7th inning and allowed only five runs, easily Cleveland's best start of the weekend, but the game ended as a 5-1 loss. The Indians had been swept by a team with only one other sweep all season.

* In September of 1928 the Indians were nineteen years removed from their last losing streak of 10 games or more, when they strung together an 11-game streak. They were outscored 86-39 during that streak, an average score of 7.8 to 3.5, for an average margin of defeat of 4.3 runs.

On July 30th the Indians licked their wounds.

* In May of 1931, the Indians lost 12 games in a row. They were outscored 102-54 during the streak, an average score of 8.5 to 4.5, for an average margin of defeat of 4.0 runs. It was early in the year when the streak began, and the Tribe recovered to finish the season 78-76. The 12 straight losses set a franchise record that has stood for 81 years.

On July 31st the Indians began a series with the Kansas City Royals. Sweeping the Indians allowed Minnesota to move out of the cellar, so for the second series in a row, Cleveland was facing the team with the worst record in the American League. Derek Lowe started for the Tribe, promptly gave up seven runs before the end of the 3rd inning, and was pulled. The game ended 8-3, Royals. Not satisfied with merely getting Lowe out of the game, the team released him later that night.

* It may surprise you to know that the Indians got through the rest of the 1930s, all of the 1940s and 50s, and most of the 1960s without ever losing 10 games in a row. Some of the best teams in franchise history came in those years, including the 1948 team that remains the last World Series winning Indians team.

On August 1st a new month began much the same way the last one had ended, with another loss. Zach McAllister gave up five runs in six innings, while the offense managed just five hits.

* In 1969 the Indians got off to a dreadful start. They were 0-5 before they won their first game, and after that victory, they lost 10 games in a row, the team's first such streak in 38 years. They were outscored 83-33 during that streak, an average score of 8.3 to 3.3, for an average margin of defeat of 5.0 runs

On August 2nd Corey Kluber made his first career start. He gave up six runs in the 1st inning. The Indians clawed back though. Carlos Santana, the one Indian who'd been hitting the ball well during the losing streak, singled in a pair of runs in the 3rd and then hit a two-run homer in the 5th, tying the game. The Royals put a couple men on base in the 11th and with two outs Cleveland's closer, Chris Perez entered the game. The first batter he faced lined a single to left, game over. The Royals hadn't won two games in a row since June, suddenly they'd won three. The streak was now at a season high (low) six straight losses.

* The Indians lost their final 7 games of that 1969 season, ending the season with a record of 62-99, the worst record in the American League. They were also an incredible 46.5 games out of 1st place. The Tribe began 1970 with 3 more losses, bringing the streak to 10 games and over 6 months. They were outscored 58-23 during that streak, an average score of 5.8 to 2.3, for an average margin of defeat of 3.5 runs.

On August 3rd the Tribe began a series in Detroit. The Tigers were the last team they'd beaten, eight days earlier, so maybe the streak would end here. Justin Masterson became the first pitcher to start a second game since the streak began. He saw to it that the streak would not end this night, giving up seven runs in just four innings. The game ended 10-2, the Indians third loss of the streak by seven runs or more.

* In 1973 the Indians lost 10 straight games between late May and early June. They were outscored 63-36 during that streak, for an average score of 6.3 to 3.6, for an average margin of defeat of 2.7 runs. The team would finish the year 71-91, 11th (out of 12) in the A.L.

On August 4th Ubaldo Jimenez made his second start since the streak began, he gave up six runs before exiting during the 6th inning. Detroit's Doug Fister had a perfect game going into the 6th inning and a shutout going into the 9th; he had to settle for a one-run complete game in a 6-1 win for the Tigers instead. The losing streak was at eight games, five of the losses by five runs or more. The streak was at eight games.

* In June of 1979 the Indians again lost 10 games in a row, including 6 against Baltimore. They were outscored 52-34 during that streak, an average score of 5.2 to 3.4, for an average margin of defeat of 1.8 runs. 6 of those 10 losses were by just 1 run, 3 others were by just 2 runs. It's rare that a team would lose so many close games strung together that way. The Indians weren't a bad team that year, finishing 81-80, it was a touch luck streak though.

On August 5th Chris Seddon became the second Indians pitcher to make his first start of the year during the streak. He gave up four runs and didn't survive the 5th inning. The Indians got some offense going though; they took the lead in the 1st, 5th, and 7th innings, but Detroit kept tying it back up. The Indians went ahead again in the 10th, 8-5 this time. Chris Perez came into the game for his first save opportunity in ten days and retired the first two hitters. After eight losses, the streak was going to end... until it didn't. Two walks and a double put the tying run into scoring position and then a single knotted things at eight. Unlike Detroit's three previous comebacks, they didn't stop at tying it this time. Instead, Miguel Cabrera hit a massive home run to win the game. It was the hardest loss to take from the entire streak, maybe from the entire season. The Indians have been around since 1901, but they'd NEVER gone on a road trip of nine or more games without winning any of them. Never until now, that is.

* The Indians never lost 10 games in a row during the 1980s or 90s, or during the first few years of the 2000s. That stretch included the great teams of the late 90s, but also some very bad teams both before and after those good years, so it's a bit of a surprise that they went 29 years without a 10-game losing streak. It gives you some idea of how hard it is to lose so many games in a row.

On August 6th the Indians loaded the bases against Minnesota with nobody out in the 1st inning. The road trip had been a nightmare, but it was over now, and the team looked ready to break the streak. Alas, from "bases loaded with nobody out," just one run was scored. In the top of the 2nd, Minnesota came one run away from their franchise record for most runs in an inning, they scored ten in the frame. Carlos Santana misplayed a throw to first, extending the inning, and starter Zach McAllister then could not escape. He gave up nine runs before mercifully being pulled from the game, which ended 14-3. The Indians now had the 12th ten-game (or more) losing streak in franchise history. 

* In 2008 the Indians were coming of a year in which they'd been a win away from the World Series. They were up and down during the first half of 2008, not playing very well, but not out of it either. Then they strung together 10 losses in a row. Adding insult to injury, 8 games into the streak CC Sabathia was traded away. The Indians were outscored 74-39 during that streak, an average score of 7.4 to 3.9, for an average margin of defeat of 3.5 runs.

On August 7th the Indians took a 5-1 lead into the 7th inning. It was the largest lead they'd held at any point during the streak. Corey Kluber had given up just one run on five hits through six innings, the first good performance by an Indians starting pitcher since the streak began. The Twins doubled to start the inning, and then an error by Asdrubal Cabrera put a second man on base. Kluber exited. The next two hitters made outs, the inning would be over if not for the error. Instead, a walk, a hit batter, and a brutal, right between the legs error by Jason Kipnis allowed three runs to score, making it a 5-4 game. With one out in the 9th, Casey Kotchman made an error, and before you knew it, the score was 7-5, Twins. Chris Perez (with a lot of "help" from the defense) had his second blown save in three days.

* In September of 2009 the Indians were winding down what had already been a very bad season, when they turned it into an even worse one by losing 11 games in a row. That's right, not 10, but 11, they're longest losing streak in 78 years, since the franchise record 12 gamer in 1931. the Indians were outscored 71-30 during that streak, an average score of 6.5 to 2.7, for an average margin of defeat of 3.8 runs. 

The 2012 losing streak stands at eleven games now. There has been just one good starting pitching performance during this awful stretch of baseball and the team has batted just .224 (84 hits in 375 at bats). The Indians have been outscored 95-36 during this streak, an average score of 8.6 to 3.3, for an average margin of defeat of 5.3 runs.

The Indians have twelve 10 (or more) game losing streaks in franchise history. The current one has included the most runs allowed per game and has also featured the worst average margin of defeat. The Indians have gone from 3.5 games out of 1st place to 10.5 games out (and only 3.5 games ahead of last place). This hasn't been the longest losing streak in team history (yet?), but it has been the ugliest.

UPDATE: On August 8th, the Indians won a game, beating the Twins 6-2. Let there be much rejoicing.

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