For the second season in a row, the Cleveland Indians have won 14 straight games, sealing the deal with a 5-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night.
It was a historic effort for the Tribe, which matched the club’s franchise record just one season after breaking a 75-year-old mark for consecutive wins in a row. Carlos Carrasco made it look easy, as he faced one batter over the minimum in scattering three hits and just one run while throwing his first complete game of the season.
The Indians gave him a lead in the fourth when the offense loaded the bases against young White Sox right-hander Reynaldo Lopez. After stranding runners on the corners in the first and two in scoring position in the second, each of the first three batters of the fourth reached safely as Carlos Santana singled to center, Yandy Diaz singled to right, and Abraham Almonte walked to load the bases. Tyler Naquin, making his first appearance on the diamond since rejoining the club, lofted a sacrifice fly to left, deep enough to score Santana to put the Indians in front. With only one man out in the inning, Lopez worked his way out of the jam, striking out Roberto Perez swinging before Francisco Lindor fouled out to the left field corner.
Carrasco did not give up his first hit until the fifth after pitching four straight innings of perfect baseball. He struck out the side in order in the fourth, giving him four straight innings with at least one strikeout, but Avisail Garcia jumped on the first pitch from Carrasco in the fifth and singled to center. Garcia was immediately doubled up on a ground ball two pitches later by Nicky Delmonico, as Santana fielded the grounder at first, stepped on the bag, and got Garcia in a rundown, where he was eventually tagged out by Jose Ramirez before reaching first.
Lopez (0-3) worked a seven-pitch sixth to wrap up a quality outing on the mound before turning it over to the White Sox bullpen, which has had some tough time keeping the Indians in the yard. Lindor nearly did just that against the first relief arm to the mound, Gregory Infante, as he sent a deep drive the opposite way to left that Delmonico made a leaping grab over the yellow line atop the wall to steal away another homer from the Tribe. Delmonico would injure his shoulder on the play and would later come out of the game.
Home run robbery would not be the case in the eighth. Infante walked Edwin Encarnacion to start the inning and Santana made sure to hit the ball high and deep enough that there was no keeping it in the playing area. His two-run blast to greet Danny Farquhar out of the Chicago bullpen gave the Indians a 3-0 lead. Cleveland would continue to get its runners on base after the home run as Diaz walked and was lifted for pinch-runner Greg Allen and Almonte singled to center, similarly lifted for Bradley Zimmer, who made his return to the field for the first time since entering into concussion protocol efforts. Naquin drew the third walk of the inning to load the bases for Perez, who grounded into a fielder’s choice that drove home Allen while the Sox were unable to retire an out on an error. Dylan Covey came on for Farquhar and got a big double play ball off of the bat of Lindor, as the 1-2-3 twin killing left runners on second and third with two down. Lonnie Chisenhall struck out swinging, leaving it a 4-0 game.
Cleveland added an insurance run it would not need in the ninth against Covey. Ramirez walked and moved to second on a one-out walk by Santana. Allen, in his first at bat of the night, grounded into a fielder’s choice with Santana forced at second. Allen, as expected, was quick down the line and Ramirez was alert in hustling from second to home in a close play to make it a 5-0 lead.
Carrasco returned to the mound for the bottom of the ninth, having allowed just two hits while facing the minimum 24 batters through eight innings. He allowed his second base runner in the bottom of the sixth, when Kevan Smith singled to start the inning, but just as was previously the case, Tyler Saladino grounded into a double play. Smith would be retired on a grounder to Santana at first and Saladino grounded to second for the second out. With a chance at completing “the Maddux” (complete game shutout in under 100 pitches), Carrasco’s first pitch to his prospective 27th out, Adam Engel, was sent just over the wall in right-center, spoiling the feat and the possibility of a complete game shutout and of facing the minimum 27 batters in a contest. Carrasco did recover and got Alen Hanson to ground out to second to finish the complete game, all while needing just 97 pitches and facing just 28 batters in total on the night.
The Indians (83-56) won their 14th straight game to match their club record, which was set just last season after 75 years of the previous mark standing. They became just the second team since 1900 to win 14 games or more in a row in back-to-back seasons (1912-13 New York Giants; 1935-36 Chicago Cubs). They put up five runs despite failing to get a hit on the night, going 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position while stranding eleven men on base.
The White Sox dropped 30 games below the .500 mark at 54-84 on the season.
Carrasco (14-6) was phenomenal, throwing 76 of 97 pitches for strikes. Twenty-one crossed the plate with the first pitch and 17 were swung on and missed. One-third of his outs came via strikeout and 13 more came on the ground. The road warrior improved to 10-2 away from Progressive Field this season with a 2.71 ERA and a strikeout/walk ratio of 4.91 (113/23).
The finale of the four-game series and the eleven-game road trip will pit Corey Kluber (14-4, 2.56 ERA) against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon (2-5, 4.15) with the Indians in pursuit of a franchise record 15th straight win and a perfect 11-0 road trip. The Indians have won in Kluber’s starts in eight of his last nine outings. Rodon has always stepped up and performed well against the Indians, but he has struggled this season, posting just one win over his last ten starts.
Game time from Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.
Photo: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh