CLEVELAND — Fresh off the most electrifying victory yet in their American League-record, 22-game winning streak, the Cleveland Indians will host the Kansas City Royals on Friday night at Progressive Field in the second game of a four-game series.
Cleveland beat Kansas City 3-2 on Thursday, scoring the tying run on a two-out, two-strike RBI double by Francisco Lindor in the bottom of the ninth inning, then winning it on doubles by Jose Ramirez and Jay Bruce in the bottom of the 10th.
The Indians will attempt to make it 23 in a row Friday, which would pull them to within three of the major league record set by the 1916 New York Giants.
Progressive Field already has a postseason vibe to it. The Indians announced shortly after the Thursday game that the Friday game was sold out.
“That was a fun game to play. A great atmosphere. It felt like a playoff game,” Indians manager Terry Francona said after the Thursday victory, Cleveland’s first extra-inning game during their winning streak.
The Indians have outscored opponents 142-37 during the historic stretch.
Cleveland is getting timely and consistent hitting and spectacular defense, but the biggest reason for the surge is pitching, pitching and more pitching.
During the streak, Indians starting pitchers are a combined 19-0 with a 1.77 ERA.
“You don’t win 22 games in a row without a great pitching staff,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Cleveland’s pitchers have totally shut down Kansas City’s hitters lately. In the clubs’ past four meetings, the Royals are 0-4 and have been outscored 23-2.
On Friday night, the Indians will start Trevor Bauer, who is enjoying a breakout season. Bauer (16-8, 4.33 ERA) is tied for the AL lead in wins, and he hasn’t lost a game since July 16. In 11 games since, he is 9-0 with a 2.51 ERA while averaging 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
Bauer’s last start against the Royals came Aug. 19, a 5-0 Indians victory. Bauer pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits with four strikeouts and two walks. In two appearances against Kansas City this year (one start and one relief outing), he is 1-0 and has pitched eight scoreless innings.
Bauer’s career record in nine starts against Kansas City is 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA.
The Royals, who are five games behind the Minnesota Twins in the battle for the second AL wild card, are 7-7 in September. Their Friday starter will be Jason Vargas (15-10, 4.15 ERA).
Vargas has struggled in recent outings, going 1-4 with an 8.34 ERA in his past five games. His last start against Cleveland was a 4-0 loss Aug. 25, when he gave up four runs and six hits in five innings.
In five starts against the Indians this year, Vargas is 2-2 with a 2.97 ERA. His career record in 18 starts against Cleveland is 8-5 with a 4.18 ERA.
The Royals will add a pitcher Sunday. Yost announced Thursday that left-hander Danny Duffy would be activated off the disabled list to start the series finale against the Indians. Duffy has been out since Aug. 23 due to a left elbow impingement.