By Jordan Bastian and William Kosileski
CLEVELAND -- Another day, another win for a Cleveland team that has shown no interest in taking its foot off the accelerator.
On Saturday afternoon, the Indians let the Orioles flirt with victory, but then pulled off a 4-2 comeback win behind scorching hits by Giovanny Urshela and Francisco Lindor to extend their winning streak to 17 games. The Indians joined the 2002 A's, who won 20 straight, as the only teams in the Expansion Era (since 1961) to enjoy a winning streak of that length.
"We've got a good team. We understand that," Indians starter Josh Tomlin said. "And I think, when everything starts kind of clicking and going the right direction, we're able to put up numbers like we're all putting up right now. Good things happen and this is pretty special."
The American League Central-leading Indians moved 12 games in front of the second-place Twins, who lost to the Royals on Saturday night. The Indians also pulled even with the Astros in the battle for the AL's best record. (Cleveland owns the head-to-head edge for home-field advantage over Houston, should the two clubs finish tied.) The Orioles are three games in back of the Twins in the race for the AL's second Wild Card spot.
This win was unlike the previous 16 wins, as Cleveland did not score first. Baltimore struck first with three singles -- two that stayed in the infield -- against Tomlin in the opening frame. Orioles left fielder Trey Mancini brought Manny Machado in from third with a two-out chopper up the middle snared at shortstop by Lindor, who could not get the throw to first in time.
Urshela got the comeback started with an RBI double in the third measured at 107 mph by Statcast™. Jay Bruce ripped a run-scoring single in the fourth and Carlos Santana sent a pitch bouncing off the wall in left for an RBI double in the fifth.
Lindor capped the scoring by hitting a ball with an exit velocity of 105 mph for a critical solo homer off reliever Darren O'Day in the seventh inning, giving him 28 shots on the season.
Given how brilliant Cleveland's pitching staff has been of late (1.76 ERA over the 17-game streak), that was the only offense required to continue the club's historic run.
"Our starting rotation starts the whole thing," Tribe closer Cody Allen said. "We've scored a lot of early runs and have been able to stay on guys. It's one of those crazy things where you're just playing good baseball. We're not really thinking about it probably as much as you guys are."
Tomlin settled in after the rocky first inning, holding the Orioles to an 0-for-13 showing before yielding a leadoff homer to Tim Beckham in the sixth. By then, however, Cleveland had built a lead against O's righty Gabriel Ynoa, who allowed three runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.
"[Ynoa] was fine," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Obviously, that's a good offensive team. He presented himself well."
Saturday marked only the seventh time on record that a team has won at least 17 consecutive games in a single season, with the 1935 Cubs (21 wins in a row) holding the record. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1916 New York Giants are credited with a 26-game winning streak, though that run included a tie in the middle of a 27-game stretch.
"It's probably the understatement, it's been fun, it's been productive," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Other than that, we really don't [think about the streak]. We kind of move on pretty quick. I think in some aspects it kind of helps keep guys sharp or focused, because it's there. When it goes away, the next game's not going to mean any less or any more."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Down, but not out: During the previous 16 wins, the Indians scored first in each game and trailed in only two of 144 innings. The Orioles temporarily flipped the script with their first-inning run on Saturday. Cleveland was behind for two innings until Urshela drilled a pitch from Ynoa to left-center for a game-tying double in the third. Besides the 107-mph exit velocity, the ball had a 26-degree launch angle. Per Statcast™, similar balls in play have resulted in a home run 91 percent of the time this year. A strong wind and Progressive Field's 19-foot wall kept Urshela's deep drive in the park.
Frankie's insurance shot: With one out in the seventh, O'Day sent a slider to the lower third of the strike zone, and Lindor was ready for it. The Indians' shortstop sent the 105-mph rocket out to right field, giving Cleveland's bullpen a little more breathing room. Lindor has averaged one homer per 22.6 plate appearances this year, compared to one homer per 41.6 plate appearances on average in the 2015-16 seasons combined.
"I would say that is being more thought about than 17 in a row or what our record is since the All-Star break. We would love to have home-field advantage throughout. But we can't control what they're doing. The only thing we can control is how we show up and how we prepare and go out and play baseball games. At the end of the day, the end of the regular season, we'll see where we stand." -- Allen, on chasing Houston for the AL's best record
"You don't want to be on the bench and feel like you're not going to win. Even when the team is down, 4-2, we still feel like we can win [the] ballgame. We've got a heck of a lineup ourselves and we know what we can do when we get the lineup rolling. Just a tough loss today." -- Beckham
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his run-scoring double in the fifth inning, Santana became the franchise's career leader in RBIs by a switch-hitter. The two-base hit gave him 585 career RBIs with the Indians, moving Santana past Omar Vizquel (584) on that list.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With two down in the sixth inning, Orioles reliever Mychal Givens let a slider get away from him, as it dipped low and inside to Bradley Zimmer, forcing the Indians' center fielder to leap out of the way. The pitch was initially ruled a ball, but Cleveland challenged to play, claiming Zimmer was hit on the foot. After a one-minute and 12-second review, the call was overturned and Zimmer was awarded first.
WHAT'S NEXT Orioles: Jeremy Hellickson (8-8, 5.26 ERA) will take the mound for Sunday's 8:05 p.m. ET series finale against the Indians at Progressive Field. Since the O's acquired Hellickson at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the right-hander has gone 2-3 with a 6.87 ERA in 36 2/3 innings across seven starts.
Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (15-8, 4.39 ERA) will look to stay on a roll on Sunday, when the Indians host the Orioles in a clash at Progressive Field. Bauer has gone 8-0 with a 2.47 ERA in his last 10 games for Cleveland.