CHICAGO -- The Cleveland Indians set a franchise record with their 15th straight victory via an 11-2 win over the White Sox on Thursday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. The historic win also dropped the Indians' magic number to 12 for clinching the American League Central over the second-place Twins.
The win gave Cleveland an 11-game sweep of their road trip to Chicago, Detroit and New York, marking the first time in franchise history the Indians have accomplished such a feat. The last two AL teams to win 15 in a row were the 2002 A's, who won 20 straight, and the 2001 Mariners. The Indians open a 10-game homestand Friday night against the Orioles in search of No. 16 with right-hander Mike Clevinger (8-5, 3.50 ERA) set to face Orioles lefty Wade Miley (8-11, 4.91).
"It's fun, obviously," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It's been a productive road trip, I'll give you that. The winning streak is enjoyable and I think it's got people's attention, which gives me a chance to brag on our guys a little bit, which I love. Other than that, we'll just go play tomorrow. Just makes the games a little more fun because people are watching and they care."
During the streak, the Indians have outscored their opponents by 81 runs and now hold the largest run-differential in MLB at +199, surpassing the Dodgers. They are 36-11 since July 21, blowing open their lead in the AL Central from a half-game to 11 games.
"That's a very good ballclub. It's actually a pretty unique feat," said White Sox manager Rick Renteria. "I've experienced it before, not at this level, but it's a unique feat. Most people think you can't get to it but they have. Again, they are a very talented ballclub who are continuing to fire on all cylinders right now."
This series finale shaped up as a pitchers' duel between Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, one of the front-runners for the AL Cy Young Award, and White Sox southpaw Carlos Rodon. But Rodon was scratched with left shoulder stiffness approximately 15 minutes before first pitch, feeling tightness as he played catch pregame, giving way to Mike Pelfrey, who had thrown 40 pitches and 2 2/3 innings in relief Tuesday.
"Didn't feel right warming up," Rodon said. "Just tight, man. Couldn't really tell you. Just didn't feel right."
Pelfrey gave up five runs in the first two innings, including Edwin Encarnacion's three-run homer, leading the White Sox to warm up catcher Rob Brantly in the bullpen alongside Chris Beck during the second. The veteran Pelfrey labored his way through 96 pitches and four innings, allowing seven runs on eight hits, while Brantly made his Major League pitching debut in the ninth. He allowed one run, on Erik Gonzalez's second home run of the night.
"I jokingly went up to the skip and I was like 'Hey, fresh arm today if you need it' and I gave him a high five," Brantly said of his comment after realizing the White Sox would be shorthanded on the mound. "Completely joking. And then like all of a sudden in the ninth inning, I'm standing on the mound of a Major League Baseball game."
Kluber (15-4) allowed solo homers to Yolmer Sanchez and Jose Abreu in the first inning but very little else. Kluber retired 20 of the final 22 faced after Abreu's blast and recorded his 14th double-digit strikeout game of the year and 38th of his career by fanning 13. The 14 double-digit efforts this year are tied for the second-most in the Majors with Washington's Max Scherzer, as Kluber moved to seventh in franchise history in career strikeouts.
"I think he just wanted to establish his fastball, and he didn't really throw a curveball until he kind of needed it," Francona said. "Then after that, you saw him kind of getting in a groove. It kind of starts with his breaking ball, and then he has his fastball late. They were really trying to hit the first straight one they could see, and they hit it good."
Kluber was again dominant in part due to his brilliant curveball. He was able to locate the pitch for a called strike five times, according to Statcast™, and induced a swing-and-miss on 13 of them -- extending his Major League lead on the most swinging strikes on a curveball this season.
"It kind of felt like they were swinging at every pitch hoping it would be a fastball so they could run into one," Kluber said. "We kind of went to more off-speed and it took them a while to make the adjustment, and we adjusted back. Just that cat-and-mouse game."
Francisco Lindor, who opened the game with a triple, finished a double short of hitting for the cycle. Every Indians starter reached base at least once. Greg Allen also launched his first career home run, connecting for a two-run shot off Jace Fry in the seventh, and Gonzalez notched his first career multi-homer game.
"[This streak is] lots of fun, not just because we're winning a lot of games but because everybody's contributing," Lindor said. "Everybody's doing what they're supposed to do, and the whole team is having fun, not just one player."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Ed-winning: Encarnacion continues to evolve even 13 years into his Major League career. The Indians' designated hitter has a career-high on-base percentage this season, and extended his Majors-best on-base streak to 30 games with a three-run homer off Pelfrey in the first inning. The ball, which traveled 366 feet as it sneaked into the bullpen according to Statcast™, gave Encarnacion 11 homers and 21 RBIs during the streak.
The Kluber whisperer: Abreu increased his dominance over one of the game's best pitchers by connecting on his 28th home run. Abreu, who has 84 RBIs for the season, has five long balls and 12 RBIs lifetime when facing Kluber. Only Miguel Cabrera (six) has hit more home runs against Kluber.
"When you get a four-run lead in the top of the first, I'm going to go out there and attack the strike zone," Kluber said. "Abreu was a little different. I fell behind him and had to kind of come back in the zone and just left the fastball out over the plate where he likes it."
"Comparing them is tough, because it's different years, different players, stuff like that. But I think the one constant between both of them is good pitching, timely hitting. All that cliche stuff they say it takes to win ballgames, it holds true. We've been able to string that together for a couple weeks now." -- Kluber, comparing the 15-game win streak to last year's 14-game streak
"I think I might have been like 12 in Little League." -- Brantly, on the last time he pitched
POSITION PLAYER PITCHING
Brantly became the first White Sox position player to pitch in a game since J.B. Shuck on June 8, 2016, against Washington. According to STATS, he is the first White Sox player whose primary position is catcher to pitch in a game in White Sox history.
ON THE MEND
Indians third baseman Yandy Diaz left in the sixth inning after being struck on the left forearm area with a 94.9 mph fastball from Beck. The 3-2 pitch rose and appeared to get Diaz on the left forearm as he turned away from it. Diaz was replaced by Giovanny Urshela as a pinch-runner. The Indians announced that Diaz was diagnosed with a left elbow contusion.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: The Indians return to Cleveland for a three-game set against the Orioles, who are looking to stay in the AL Wild Card hunt. Clevinger makes the 7:10 p.m. ET start on Friday, looking to build off back-to-back outings in which he's tossed six shutout innings. Preview >>
White Sox:Lucas Giolito (2-1, 2.25) is scheduled to make his fourth start of the season (all at home) and first career against San Francisco on Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field with a first pitch of 7:10 p.m. CT. Giolito has won each of his last two starts, allowing one run on six hits with 14 strikeouts over 14 innings. Preview >>