CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians share a record with a team celebrated by Hollywood.
“Moneyball” has its sequel.
Following a familiar script of scoring first, playing strong defense and riding dominant pitching, the Indians extended their winning streak to 20 games and matched the AL mark held by the 2002 Oakland Athletics, beating the Detroit Tigers 2-0 on Tuesday night.
Cleveland’s streak, which began on Aug. 24 in Boston, is tied for the majors’ second-longest in 82 years — and the Indians show no signs of stopping.
Corey Kluber (16-4) strengthened his Cy Young Award case with a four-hitter as Cleveland joined the 2002 A’s, 1935 Chicago Cubs (21) and 1916 New York Giants (26) as the only teams to win at least 20 in a row.
Francisco Lindor homered leading off the first inning against Matthew Boyd (5-10), and the crowd of 24,654 stood and roared when Kluber sprinted to the mound for the ninth.
Second baseman Jose Ramirez made a sensational diving stop in short right field to throw out Ian Kinsler for the second out, and after allowing a double to Alex Presley, Kluber sealed win No. 20 — and Cleveland’s seventh shutout during the streak — by getting Miguel Cabrera on an easy grounder to third.
Fireworks exploded overhead and the Indians lined up to celebrate yet another win in this unthinkable streak.
The Giants’ revered 101-year-old streak includes a tie that interrupted 12- and 14-game unbeaten runs. However, the Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistical custodian for Major League Baseball, has always regarded the Giants’ stretch as the top mark because tie games were replayed from the start back then.
Cleveland can equal the Cubs’ 21-game run Wednesday afternoon, and the Indians are within striking distance of the illustrious-but-imperfect mark of those ‘16 Giants.
The Indians and A’s, whose unexpected run to the postseason 15 years ago was re-told in the film starring Brad Pitt, don’t have much in common besides their 20-game streaks.
Oakland was an overachieving squad loaded with pitching and a roster comprised of low-salaried players assembled by a front office that forced baseball to rethink how it evaluated talent. The Indians, on the other hand, have spent millions to get better, and have been expected to win — big.
Maybe not at this amazing rate, but after getting to Game 7 in 2016, Cleveland was a favorite to return to the World Series.
Closing in on their second consecutive AL Central title, the Indians figured to keep things going with Kluber on the mound, and the right-hander continued his own superb stretch.
Kluber improved to 8-1 in his last nine starts and lowered his ERA to an AL-best 2.45 with his third shutout of the season and fifth complete game. He allowed a leadoff double in the first to Kinsler, but stranded him at third by striking out Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos to end the inning.
Cabrera came in batting .434 against Kluber but went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
While understanding the fascination with his team’s roll, Indians manager Terry Francona has been downplaying the streak so as not to make it a distraction. As far as Francona’s concerned, there is nothing magical going on.
“I just want to win tonight. I’ve always felt like that,” he said before the game. “Maybe you don’t believe me. I want us to show up every day and play the best game we can. We’re going to lose a game.”
When, is anyone’s guess.
Lindor, who has been Cleveland’s hottest hitter during the streak, hit his 30th homer in the first off Boyd as the Indians scored first for the 19th time in 20 games.
The Indians wasted bases-loaded threats in the second and third before finally scoring their second run in the sixth when Carlos Santana doubled, moved up on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
Indians: 2B Jason Kipnis is pushing to return Sunday after being sidelined since Aug. 23 with a strained hamstring. Kipnis will play center field as the club needs to add outfield depth after rookie Bradley Zimmer broke his left hand. Zimmer’s fracture required a plate and nine screws in surgery. He will be re-examined in two weeks, but doctors have estimated he’ll need two months to recover.
Tigers: DH Victor Martinez underwent a heart ablation to correct an irregular heartbeat that caused the five-time All-Star to be hospitalized last month. The 38-year-old is expected to return next season. .... RHP Michael Fulmer had ulnar nerve transposition surgery in Pensacola, Florida. Last season’s AL Rookie of the Year is expected to be ready for spring training.
The Indians will go for No. 21 in a row Wednesday at 12:10 p.m. with RHP Mike Clevinger, who hasn’t allowed a run in his past three outings, starting against Tigers RHP Buck Farmer.