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22 and through: Indians’ AL record win streak ended by KC

By Tom Withers

AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) — When reality set in, the ovation steadily grew as the Cleveland Indians emerged from their dugout.

With the scoreboard showing a loss and the Kansas City Royals shaking hands and high-fiving each other nearby, the Indians tipped their caps to salute fans who came hoping to see more late-inning magic and a record streak continue.

You can’t win ‘em all.

Cleveland’s historic run is over.

The Indians, who captured America’s attention during a dominating three-week run, had their AL-record winning streak stopped at 22 straight on Friday night with a 4-3 loss to the Royals, who became the first team to conquer the defending league champions since Aug. 23.

Jason Vargas (16-10) pitched into the sixth and Brandon Moss homered off Trevor Bauer (16-9) as the Royals, who were beaten five times by Cleveland over the past few weeks, ended baseball’s longest win streak in 101 years.

But when it ended, there was a celebration as a crowd of 34,025 fans saluted a team that took them on an improbable ride they are unlikely to see again in their lifetimes.

“They’ve been so supportive,” said Indians manager Terry Francona, who led his team out of the dugout to return the love to the crowd. “The atmosphere around here is incredible and I think our players wanted to show their appreciation. It’s by no means the last game of the year or anything like that, it’s just been pretty incredible how they’ve reacted and we just wanted to show our appreciation because we don’t take it for granted.

“I don’t think anything is over.”

The Indians set a new league mark and came within four of matching the overall record held by the 1916 New York Giants, a 26-game string that became the subject of scrutiny because it included a tie in the middle.

But despite the loss, Cleveland’s magic number for clinching the AL Central dropped to two after second-place Minnesota was beaten by Toronto.

Following a magical, walk-off win in extra innings on Thursday night, the Indians couldn’t muster another late rally.

When Francisco Lindor, one of the stars in Cleveland’s 3-2 win on Thursday, struck out with a runner on first to end it, the crowd experienced the slightest moment of disappointment before appreciating what they had just seen. And as they stood and cheered, the Indians clapped in return.

“It’s been great,” Bauer said. “They came out, they supported us. The atmosphere last night and tonight was spectacular. Shoot, even tonight after the loss, everyone was standing and stuff like that. It was a pretty cool moment.”

The Indians, who are already assured a playoff spot, not only broke the previous AL record of 20 held by the 2002 “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics, but they served notice that they well could be the team to beat in the postseason as they attempt to get back to the World Series and perhaps end their 68-year title drought after the Chicago Cubs halted their 108-year dry spell at Cleveland’s expense in 2016.

Jose Ramirez, who has forced his way into the MVP conversation, hit a two-run homer and the Indians took a 3-1 lead before the Royals scored a run in the fourth, fifth and sixth.

With one last chance in the ninth, the Indians put the tying run on base before Royals reliever Mike Minor struck out the side for his first pro save, fanning Lindor on a pitch in the dirt.

That touched off a wild celebration, which shook Progressive Field and gave Cleveland fans a chance to get ready for bigger games to come.

“I think it was appropriate. We haven’t lost a game in three weeks. We played a good game,” Cleveland outfielder Jay Bruce said. “It wasn’t like we got just blown out or anything. I think (it was important) to have a bit of a light-hearted attitude about it all, and not take it too hard, obviously, because we’re in a great position.

“We just did something that, depending on who you ask, one or no teams have ever done. So, it’s one of those deals where we understand what the situation is, and this is not something that would happen very often.”

For the better part of a month, the Indians had no equals.

“What they did over there was amazing. I mean, it’s utterly amazing,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s just unfathomable for me that you can go three weeks without losing a game. I mean, it was a tremendous accomplishment.”

“I mean, we’ve got a runner on first, two outs, two strikes on Lindor, and I told Jirsch (third base coach Mike Jirschele), ‘man, we’ve been here before.’ Luckily we got through it tonight,” he said.

On their way to making AL history, the Indians romped through the league like no team has before.

They outscored opponents 145-41, led in all but 12 of 207 innings, hit 42 homers and captured the attention of baseball fans fixated on the hot-then-cold Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros and seeing how far Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge could hit homers.

Francona kept his players focused throughout the streak, mindful that it could become too big. They’ll likely wrap it up their division this weekend and can start looking ahead to a postseason where the only streak that will matter is winning the last game they play.

“To me, it’s just kind of a jumping off point,” Francona said. “Where do we go from here? It’s up. Common sense said you’re going to lose a game. It was a lot of fun. We’ll show up tomorrow and my guess is we’ll have real good energy and see if we can beat the Royals.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: C Salvador Perez sat out with a pulled muscle in his side and is considered day-to-day. He was injured taking a swing Thursday. … RHP Joakim Soria is expected to join the team Saturday after returning to Arizona for the birth of his son.

Indians: OF Lonnie Chisenhall had his calf re-examined by the medical staff after leaving with tightness on Thursday night. The club is hoping the injury is nothing serious after Chisenhall missed more than two months with a calf injury. … OF Jason Kipnis is expected to play five innings in center field on Sunday when he’s activated after his second DL stint with a calf injury. The Indians are lacking outfield depth following injuries to Chisenhall and rookie Bradley Zimmer (broken hand).

UP NEXT

RHP Carlos Carrasco tries to get the Indians to their ninth division title since 1995 on Saturday, when he faces Royals RHP Jason Hammel.

•••

ROOKIE SEAN NEWCOMB’S 8 STRIKEOUTS HELP  BRAVES WIN

ATLANTA (AP) — Sean Newcomb kept striking out Mets batters even when he couldn’t rely on his big curveball.

For Braves manager Brian Snitker, that was an encouraging sign about the rookie left-hander’s future.

Newcomb recorded eight strikeouts, including five straight, and Atlanta beat Rafael Montero and the New York Mets 3-2 on Friday night.

Newcomb (6-5, 255 pounds) relied on his strong fastball. When he didn’t have a good feel on his curveball, he had to put a bigger emphasis on his changeup.

It was a confidence-building night for the 24-year-old and his manager.

“You see what the kid is capable of,” Snitker said. “He’s getting better.”

Newcomb (3-8) gave up two runs on six hits and one walk in 5 1/3 innings. His eight strikeouts fell one shy of his career high.

“I am getting a better grip with it,” Newcomb said of his changeup. “I’m a lot more comfortable with it than I was last year.”

The Mets have lost five straight.

Newcomb’s run of five strikeouts began after he allowed a run-scoring double to Dominic Smith in the fourth that gave New York a 2-1 lead.

Montero (5-10) was lifted with two outs in the fifth after throwing 108 pitches and allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks. He had walked 14 in his previous three starts.

Montero faced seven batters in the fifth before manager Terry Collins pulled him.

“I really don’t have an answer,” Collins said. “He was sailing along. Maybe a few too many pitches early.”

The Braves scored two runs in the fifth to take the lead. David Freitas doubled and scored on Ender Inciarte’s single. Montero walked Ozzie Albies and issued an intentional walk to Freddie Freeman, loading the bases.

Left fielder Brandon Nimmo made a diving catch on Lane Adams’ fly ball to the gap in left-center, driving in Inciarte. Adams replaced left fielder Matt Kemp, who had tightness in his left hamstring, to start the inning.

Arodys Vizcaino pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 13 opportunities.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard (torn lat muscle) could be nearing his first appearance since April 30. Collins said Syndergaard will be evaluated on Saturday after throwing a bullpen session without restrictions on Thursday. The Mets will “then make the next step, whether it’s another bullpen or use him in a game,” Collins said. … SS Amed Rosario (pulled hip flexor) and C Travis d’Arnaud (twisted right knee) were held out and are day to day after leaving Thursday’s game against the Cubs.

Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz is expected to miss a start. He left Thursday’s game at Washington with a cut on his right middle finger. … C Tyler Flowers, hit by a pitch on his left hand Wednesday, is expected to be held out until Tuesday. … RHP Jason Motte (right oblique strain) was activated off the 10-day DL.

MR. RBI

Since making his debut on Aug. 11, Smith leads the Mets with 20 RBIs.

ANOTHER SHORT START

Montero became the fourth straight Mets starter pitcher to fail to complete five innings. “We can’t get five innings out of a starting pitcher,” Collins said. “That’s what has hurt us.”

ANOTHER HONOR FOR ACUNA

Outfielder Ronald Acuna was announced as the Braves’ organizational player of the year in a pregame ceremony. The 19-year-old Acuna rose from Class A to Triple-A Gwinnett this season and hit a combined .325 with 21 homers, 82 RBIs and 44 steals. Earlier this month, Acuna was chosen as the minor league player of the year by Baseball America.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (14-9, 3.63) is 4-3 with a 2.29 ERA in 10 career starts against Atlanta. He has 10 games with at least 10 strikeouts this season, the fifth-highest total in team history.

Braves: RHP R.A. Dickey (9-9, 4.28) will look for his third win of the season against the Mets on Saturday night. He is 2-0 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts against New York this season and is 4-0 with a 2.57 ERA in five career games against the Mets.

___

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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