ANAHEIM -- It really was not that all that long ago that this year's Dodgers were being lauded as a potentially all-time great team. They seemed destined for baseball's best record and would head into October as the heavy favorites to win it all, with home-field advantage in the World
ANAHEIM -- It really was not that all that long ago that this year's Dodgers were being lauded as a potentially all-time great team. They seemed destined for baseball's best record and would head into October as the heavy favorites to win it all, with home-field advantage in the World Series helping their cause.
This was before Cleveland went streaking.
With their 6-5 victory over the Angels on Wednesday night, the Indians picked up their 26th win in 27 games, which includes their recent 22-game winning streak (an American League record). The Tribe also pulled within one game of tying the Dodgers (96-56) for the Major League's best record, which for the first time will net home-field advantage all the way through the Fall Classic.
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"That's what a winning streak will do for you, especially one of that magnitude," Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said. "To be able to be one game back right now, that shows there's a lot of heart and a lot of character in this clubhouse. It just speaks volumes for this organization and this team."
In the past 26 days, Cleveland has picked up 19 games on Los Angeles in the standings.
Back on Aug. 25, the Indians were 71-56, and the Dodgers leading baseball with an incredible 91-36 record. That was a 20-game advantage over Cleveland. That same week, Sports Illustrated featured the Dodgers on the cover with this headline: "Best. Team. Ever?" There was talk of L.A. possibly threatening the single-season record of 116 win, set by the 1906 Cubs and matched by the 2001 Mariners.
Not so fast.
The Indians have done their best impersonation of the Braves' in-game sprinting sensation, The Freeze. While the Dodgers and Astros looked like they had the best records wrapped up, Cleveland punched the gas. The Indians were a season-high 15 1/2 games back of the Astros on July 22 and surpassed them for the AL's top seed on Sept. 9. Now, the Tribe is on the Dodgers' doorstep and has a 1 1/2-game lead on Houston.
Told that the Indians were just one game back of L.A., Francisco Lindor flashed a wide smile.
"Are we?" Lindor replied. "It shows baseball is a long season and anything can happen."
If the Dodgers and Indians were to end with the same record, L.A. boasts the tiebreaker due to winning two out of three in Cleveland this season. That means the Tribe will have to finish with a better ledger to net home-field in the World Series, if the Dodgers are indeed the opponent. The advantage in the Fall Classic will go to the team with the best overall record, rather than the team from the league that won the All-Star Game, as had been the case from 2003-16.
Indians manager Terry Francona said he did not expect there to be any kind of letdown after his team's winning streak ended on Friday, and he is proud that his belief has been backed up by four straight wins. Francona said he checks the scores of other games because it relaxes him, but the skipper said he is not getting caught up in the standings.
"If we play like we're supposed to," Francona said, "when the season's over, we'll be where we deserve to be. So, that's kind of how we look at it."
That is a vintage Francona quote, and that attitude has been embraced by his players.
That said, the men in the locker room know the score and what is at stake.
"That'd be awesome," Indians reliever Bryan Shaw said of potentially securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. "Getting to where we're at now in the American League was obviously our goal. But yeah, [the Dodgers are] definitely within striking distance. We don't play them, so all we can do is watch them.
"We can take care of our business, win some games over here, and hopefully they lose some and it works out."
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.