By Jordan Bastian and William Kosileski
CLEVELAND -- The Indians were not content with establishing a franchise-record winning streak. Cleveland kept its incredible momentum going on Friday night with a 5-0 win over the Orioles, winning its 16th game in a row to continue the team's pursuit of history.
The victory was powered by a three-run home run from Edwin Encarnacion in the first inning and anchored by a six-inning gem from starter Mike Clevinger. It also made this year's Tribe only the third team in the Expansion Era (since 1961) to enjoy a win streak as long as 16, joining the 2002 A's (an American League-record 20 wins in a row) and the 1977 Royals (16).
This marked the fifth shutout within Cleveland's winning streak, giving the club a Major League-leading 17 on the season. That represented the most for the Indians in one season since 1976 (also 17). During the streak, the Tribe has posted a plus-86 run differential.
With the win, the AL Central-leading Indians maintained their 11-game lead over the second-place Twins, who beat the Royals on Friday night. The Orioles dropped three back of the Twins in the race for the AL's second Wild Card spot.
Clevinger said one key to the long winning streak has been that the players have not been swept up in it.
"That's what I think is the coolest part and why we're playing so well," Clevinger said. "It's just the fun we're having on the field. I mean, you can look around the dugout and clubhouse -- on the field, off the field -- we're having a ton of fun together, and I think that's feeding us on the field."
Indians manager Terry Francona has also been pleased with his players' ability to maintain their focus on the game at hand, rather than feeling pressure to extend the streak.
"We keep an eye on that pretty close," Francona said. "They've done a good job."
Encarnacion's shot in the first off Wade Miley (5 2/3 innings, four runs) was the 34th home run for the Tribe slugger. That blast, combined with an RBI double by Carlos Santana in the sixth, proved to be sufficient to back a strong effort from Clevinger, whose outing lowered the Tribe's rotation ERA to 1.80 over the 16-game streak. Relievers Tyler Olson, Bryan Shaw and Nick Goody completed the shutout with an inning apiece.
"They're leading the league in starting pitching and relief pitching," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "So, you know that runs are going to come at a premium. Wade pitched pretty well other than the first inning. They played good defense and pitched well. That's a good combination."
Francona smirked when asked if he had ever won 16 games in a row at any level.
"My high school baseball coach texted me the other day," Francona said, "because we went 14-0 that year. But, we ran out of games because the season was over."
Only six teams in history have reached 17 straight wins. Cleveland will aim to become the seventh on Saturday afternoon.
"You try not to think too much about the streak," Clevinger said. "Your eyes are still set on the same goals that we first started out with, but it gives it more of a playoff atmosphere, at least in the stands. You can definitely see the energy and feel the energy around the crowd and kind of gave it that October feeling."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Tribe strikes first: The Indians have scored first in each of the 16 games in their historic streak, and the club wasted no time in getting on the board on Friday. With two on and one out, Encarnacion delivered his three-run shot, which rocketed off his bat at 105 mph per Statcast™ and landed in the trees beyond the wall in center. Cleveland has now outscored its opponents, 56-11, in the first three innings combined over the team's winning streak.
"I made a mistake to Encarnacion," Miley said. "It cost us three runs. Put us behind the eight-ball. After that, I tried to hold it there as long as I could."
Clevinger's escape: Clevinger dealt with some traffic in his time on the mound, but held Baltimore to a 1-for-7 showing with runners on and 0-for-2 in its only chances with runners in scoring position. The Orioles' biggest threat arrived in the third, when Tim Beckham drew a two-out walk and Manny Machado followed with a single. Facing Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore's leader in RBIs, Clevinger halted the rally with a strikeout.
"He had command of all his pitches when we needed to," Perez said. "They're very aggressive over there, so we were just trying to keep them off-balance, and we did."
"When it happens quick, it can really implode fast. And you never know, if we put together a couple hits and scored a couple runs, we put some heat on them, then maybe it looks different. In the end, maybe Wade gets deeper and they start swinging at pitches earlier. But I think tonight was more about what their starter did versus what ours did." -- Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph, on playing with an early deficit
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Clevinger became the first Indians starter since 1981 (John Denny) to log at least six shutout innings in three consecutive starts. Cleveland's club record is four such outings in a row set in 1968 by Luis Tiant.
The Indians are 9-0 this month, marking the first time Cleveland has started any one month with nine straight wins since September 1911 (also 9-0).
WHAT'S NEXT Orioles:Gabriel Ynoa (1-0, 3.68 ERA) is slated to make his first start of the season for the O's in Saturday's 1:05 p.m. ET matchup with the Indians at Progressive Field. In five relief appearances this season, the right-hander has allowed six runs and 17 hits, issued three walks and struck out 13 in 14 2/3 innings.
Indians: Right-hander Josh Tomlin (8-9, 5.20 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball for the Tribe on Saturday. Tomlin is 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA in his last five turns for Cleveland.