CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor read the specifications on the knob of the bat and knew there was a problem. The strip of lumber that Abraham Almonte just tossed to the Indians shortstop was not the one Lindor had used during batting practice. This one was heavier and had a thicker barrel.
"I'm like, 'No, there's no chance,'" Lindor said with a smile.
Lindor was grinning about that momentary mishap on Sunday night, because everything has been going the Indians' way these days. Wrong bat? No problem. Lindor used the hefty stick to crush the decisive home run in a 3-2 win over the Orioles, pushing Cleveland's improbable winning streak to 18 games. Only three teams on record have won more consecutive games than this rolling Tribe.
Next on the list are the 1947 Yankees, who won 19 straight games. Two more wins, and Cleveland will walk in the footsteps of the 2002 A's, who won 20 games in a row en route to "Moneyball" fame. The 1935 Cubs hold the Major League record for wins in consecutive games with 21.
Lindor's shot kept the Indians' pursuit alive.
"Frankie hit one really good," manager Terry Francona said, "and then we hung on for dear life."
As soon as the pitch from Baltimore's Jeremy Hellickson left Lindor's bat in the sixth inning, the pitcher spun and watched the ball drop into a sea of fans in the right-field seats. Lindor did not watch his shot. Instead, he turned to Cleveland's dugout, where Almonte was falling backward in disbelief, while Giovanny Urshela held him up. Lindor shot a stunned stare back at his teammate, then tossed the bat away, flashed that famous smile and beamed around the bases.
When Lindor returned to the dugout, he gave Almonte a hug. Moments later, Almonte jokingly wrote Lindor's name on the barrel of the game-changing bat.
"I was like, 'No man, this is just one-time luck,'" said Lindor, laughing. "I'm not going to use that in a game."
The moment mattered not only for its humor, but it shifted the game's momentum and kept Cleveland on its crash course with history.
Leading up to the sixth inning, Hellickson has baffled Cleveland's lineup to the tune of 15 batters retired in a row. Then in the top of the frame, Indians starter Trevor Bauer surrendered a double to Manny Machado, who eventually came around to score on a single by Jonathan Schoop. The game was caught in a 1-1 deadlock and it was fair to wonder if this was the night the Tribe's luck finally ran out.
Roberto Perez then drilled a 3-2 pitch from Hellickson over the wall in left to open the bottom of the sixth, waking up Progressive Field's nervous crowd. Then, Lindor followed suit with his shot to right field, chasing away his audience's temporary doubts that this winning streak would continue.
"The turn of momentum was so big," Bauer said. "The crowd got into it. The team was into it."
During the 18-game run, which has propelled the Indians to the American League's best record, Lindor has been a force. The shortstop has turned in a .357/.430/.757 slash line in 70 at-bats in that span with eight of his 29 home runs. One recent trend for Lindor has been using a bat of Almonte's during batting practice to work on his hands. That bat is 34 ounces.
So, when Lindor's gray-barreled bat cracked on a foul ball during his battle with Hellickson, he called to Almonte. The one tossed to the shortstop was 34 1/2 ounces, and Lindor felt the difference right away.
"I guess I had a chance," Lindor said.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.