The Indians’ winning streak came to an end last night in Cleveland. The Royals 4–3 win that resembled an elimination game marked the Tribe’s first loss in three-and-a-half weeks.
When the streak started on August 24, the Indians had lost two of three to the Red Sox and were primarily fighting for home-field advantage in what felt like an inevitable rematch of last season’s Divisional Series matchup. They still had work to do in the division, too.
Now, Cleveland has clinched a playoff spot, all but wrapped up the Central and have a two-game lead over Houston, on top of the American League.
Twenty-Two wins in a row surely took its toll on the Indians, even if they appear energized now. The Indians essentially started the playoffs early, will go back to the regular season and then begin actual postseason play in two weeks. It will be a strange sensation that may, or may not, have the reigning American League champion in a better position to repeat.
That’s long-term, though. My hypothesis today is that the Indians won’t be able to help but have a little bit of a letdown this evening the day after.
The Indians have been playing with energy that has been compounding on itself for over three weeks now, energy that will, suddenly, won’t be there this evening. The crowd won’t be as impassioned; the starting pitcher won’t have the same focus to make sure that it isn’t he who ruins the streak; and Francisco Lindor can’t possibly approach his leadoff duty with the same fervor he has been for the last week, in particular.
Nor should it be that way. The Indians and the city of Cleveland at large would burn out short of the ultimate goal, which is a World Series. And therein lies the challenge for the next two weeks: finding a way to build the momentum back up, gradually, so that the team is again peaking, this time in accordance with the October schedule.
It probably starts with a loss this evening, a sluggish loss where no one shows up because they are all mentally resetting. It would be earned, like unplugging and plopping down on the couch to watch cartoons after a hard week’s work. The Indians owe it to themselves.
Of course, the one guy who might not be seriously tempted to just mail it in tonight is the starting pitcher. Carlos Carrasco has to be psyched about getting a chance to pitch in this year’s postseason, though it wasn’t much earlier than it is right now when he broke his hand.
He’s pitched strung four dominant start together now, which is typical. What’s also typical is a dud every four, five, six times out. The Royals were hungry last night and they’ll stay that way tonight. They still believe they can sneak into October, win a game and then knock off the team they have to beat tonight. At worst, it should be close.
Free Pick: Kansas City +1.5 (-110)