Cleveland — Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has seen this Indians machine come together and gain power.
Over the last four years, he’s seen their young starting pitchers mature and blossom. He’s seen them continuously harvest productive young talent from their farm system and he’s seen their front office smartly fill in the holes with quality veteran players.
“To me, they are the best team in baseball,” he said. “No knock on the Dodgers or the Astros, but I think this is the most balanced team and probably the biggest threat to anybody trying to win a World Series. Because they do cover every facet of the game.”
They dominated every facet of the game Monday, beating the Tigers 11-0, extending their franchise-best win streak to 19 games. One more win and they will equal the 2002 A’s streak of 20 straight, which, in the modern era, is second only to the 1935 Cubs who won 21 straight.
The 1916 New York Giants are credited with a 26-game win streak, despite having a tie game in that stretch.
“You look at their team and it seems like a great blueprint,” Ausmus said. “But a lot of things have happened here that they haven’t expected. They weren’t expecting Jose Ramirez to be an MVP-caliber player. Lonnie Chisenhall was a third baseman a couple of years ago. Now he’s turned into a very good outfielder who can swing the bat.
“To be a good team, you have to have some surprises, some diamonds in the rough.”
Ramirez came into the game hitting .473 with a 1.091 slugging percentage and 1.636 OPS, with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 15 games against the Tigers this season. He continued his assault Monday with a sacrifice fly and a two-run home run off Tigers’ starter Myles Jaye, who gave up seven runs in 3⅔ innings.
“The way those guys are swinging the bat right now, you almost had to be perfect,” said Jaye, who was making his first big-league start. “And I wasn’t perfect tonight.”
Francisco Lindor, one of the Indians’ harvested home-grown stars, hit a bases-loaded triple to highlight a five-run second inning.
And right-hander Carlos Carrasco, one of the come-of-age starting pitchers in the Indians' rotation, beat the Tigers for the fifth straight time this season. He allowed two runs or less in all five.
“If you can put together a lineup like that — switch hitters, power and speed, outstanding starting pitching, great bullpen — yeah, it’s a blueprint,” Ausmus said. “It’s easy to look at their roster and say, ‘Let’s put a roster together like that.’
“But it’s a lot harder to actually put a roster like that together.”
The Indians have outscored their 19 victims by 100 runs during this streak. They have scored first in 18 of the 19 wins. The Indians starting pitcher has posted the win in 17 of the 19 victories, with a 1.86 ERA. This was their major-league leading 18th shutout.
The Tigers did get Ramirez out of the game, in a very unconventional manner, in the sixth inning. Reliever Warwick Saupold’s first pitch was inside at Ramirez’s hands. It was initially ruled a hit-by-pitch, and Ramirez, who had been hit by Jaye in the first inning, was removed from the game.
The Tigers challenged to call. The pitch hit Ramirez’s bat first before it caromed off his wrist. The call was reversed and ruled a foul ball.
But Ramirez was already replaced by Erik Gonzalez.
The Indians announced later that Ramirez was pulled as a precaution with a forearm bruise.
Both teams were edgy at that point. Carrasco had thrown three straight pitches high and tight to Miguel Cabrera in the fifth inning, before striking him out with the next three pitches.
“That’s not the case,” said Ausmus, when asked if things were getting chippy. “They’re in contention and they don’t want to get anyone hurt. And we don’t want to get anyone hurt or be the ones who cause it.”
In any event, Indians manager Terry Francona started pulling his starters out of the game in the sixth inning and things calmed down.
The Tigers scratched out seven hits off Carrasco in six innings. Jeimer Candelario had two of them. But they were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. He struck out nine.
Jaye, after a scoreless first, gave up a walk, three singles and a triple to start the second. Tough duty.
“You are talking about a kid who started in Double-A this year and we’re asking him to go against the American League champions and a team that’s clicking,” Ausmus said. “Kind of a tall task.”
The Indians scored single runs off Tigers relievers Zac Reininger and Saupold (three walks), and two off Jairo Labourt in the bottom of the eighth.
This was the fourth time in 11 games this month the Tigers have allowed 10 or more runs and been beaten by 10 or more runs.
There was one positive for the Tigers pitching staff. Right-hander Joe Jimenez, who was tagged for five runs in a third of an inning in his last outing Sept. 6, pitched a clean seventh. His fastball, which had been 92-94 mph in his previous outing, was clocking at 95-97 in this one.
“That was the best Joe has looked since he’s come up here,” Ausmus said. “That’s the best fastball we’ve seen.”
The game also offered a teaching moment for new right fielder Nick Castellanos. In the fourth inning, Castellanos collided with center fielder JaCoby Jones, allowing a fly ball from Edwin Encarnacion to fall.
Replays showed Jones calling off Castellanos.
“It’s not necessarily who is in the wrong,” Ausmus said. “Nick was camped under the ball. But the priority it, if the center fielder calls for it, the corner outfielders give way. The only problem is, Nick didn’t hear JJ.
“It’s not really anyone’s fault. He just didn’t hear him. But that’s part of learning a new position, to learn who is around you.”