On the morning of Aug. 24, the Indians sat at 69-56, with a 4 1/2-game lead on the Twins in the AL Central. On the morning of Sept. 7, the Indians sit at 83-56, with an 11-game lead on the Twins and just three games back of the Astros for the best record in the AL.
Cleveland has been about as hot as hot can get recently: They've ripped off a 14-game winning streak, the longest in baseball this year, while outscoring opponents 98 to 26 (no, that's not a typo). The team has already tied a club record (set just last year), but before they try to make history on Thursday night against the White Sox, it's time to look back on the most awesome moments from a pretty awesome couple of weeks.
Hello, Yandy Diaz
Signed by the Indians out of Cuba in 2013, Diaz made his Major League debut back on Opening Day. He struggled over the first two weeks of the season before being sent down to Triple-A. He was called back up in May, went hitless over three games and was sent down again. He entered play on Aug. 24 hitting just .186, with Chris Sale on tap that night.
Naturally, Diaz went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a triple and two RBI:
Apparently something clicked, because over Cleveland's winning streak Diaz has slashed .412/.574/.588.
Has anyone seen Joe Smith's pants?
Most Major Leaguers were able to handle the uniform madness of Players Weekend seamlessly. However, because Indians reliever Smith accidentally wore the wrong pair of pants -- and because his manager is Terry Francona -- he was made aware of his wardrobe mishap on the mound, in front of all of his teammates:
Cody Allen makes history
Even with Andrew Miller on the DL, the Indians bullpen hasn't missed a beat, leading the Majors with a 2.92 ERA thanks in part to guys like closer Allen -- who set a team record for most strikeouts by a reliever back on Aug. 25:
Bradley Zimmer goes airborne
According to MLB Pipeline, Zimmer was Cleveland's top-ranked prospect in each of the last three years -- and if you'd like to know why, here's Exhibit A:
One inning later, Zimmer broke up Royals starter Jason Hammel's perfect game bid.
The nine-run second inning
You don't win 14 games in a row without being able to win in a variety of ways, from pitcher's duels to nail-biters. Back on Aug. 27 against the Royals, though, Cleveland's lineup decided to make it easy: They dropped nine runs in the second inning, courtesy of three homers.
Bathrobes for everyone!
Arguably no one has a better time on and around the diamond than Francisco Lindor. So for Players Weekend, you knew he would have no trouble getting into the spirit of things -- which is why he got them all custom bathrobes to wear around the clubhouse:
Lindor got robes for everybody. If they wear them for the game, that's some next-level Players Weekending. pic.twitter.com/pJhMfmyJ6s- Anthony Castrovince (@castrovince) August 27, 2017
Francisco Lindor does Francisco Lindor things on the field, too
No list like this would be complete without a Lindor defensive highlight, so without further ado, here's Mr. Smile making a ground ball in the hole look like no big deal:
Jay Bruce hits a ... triple?
Bruce, for all of his many talents, is not known for his speed. So, when Francona called his number as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of a tie game against the Tigers back on Sept. 1, of course he delivered with a triple:
Bruce went on to score the eventual game-winning run, because the Baseball Gods are not without a sense of humor.
Jose Ramirez gets a little boost
Ramirez is hardly in need of help at the plate: He's been arguably Cleveland's best player over the winning streak, slugging .964 with seven homers. But still ...
Carlos Carrasco, future broadcaster
Look, there's a lot of downtime for starters during games in which they're not pitching, especially when your team has made winning look as easy as Cleveland has. So you can hardly blame Carrasco for turning an in-dugout interview into his broadcasting audition -- we're particularly fond of the screeching bird noise that accompanied Edwin/"Edwing" Encarnacion's trip to the plate:
Corey Kluber is unfair
You know, just the AL leader in ERA who at one point this season managed to strike out eight or more batters in 14 (!) straight starts.
Kluber's most recent outing came Sept. 2 against the Tigers, and he was, well, Corey Kluber: He gave up one run and struck out seven over eight innings, and his stuff was as nasty as ever.
Fairly certain that this is illegal in nine states:
Francisco Mejia arrives
Mejia made his Indians debut on Sept. 1, and on Labor Day against the White Sox, he notched his first Major League hit and RBI:
The bullpen will take it from here
With a bullpen this great, who needs starting pitching? Danny Salazar lasted just 2/3 of an inning on Tuesday night against the White Sox, but a parade of seven relievers threw 8 1/3 shutout innings:
Carlos Carrasco can pitch, too
Lest you thought he should quit his day job, Carrasco has rediscovered the form that made him one of the best pitchers in the AL from 2014-2016. The righty made three starts during Cleveland's streak and was lights out in all of them: He threw seven shutout innings against the Royals, seven one-run innings against the Tigers and, on Wednesday night, a three-hit shutout in Chicago.