CLEVELAND -- When the streak was over, when the Indians finally lost again, the crowd inside Progressive Field rose to its feet for a chills-inducing standing ovation on that warm September night in Cleveland. This was history and everyone in attendance took a moment to soak in the moment.
That included those inside the Indians' dugout down the third-base line. Manager Terry Francona moved up the steps, turned to face the fans and raised his cap skyward. The players followed suit, clapping their hands and offering fist pumps, waves and salutes to their audience. That loss to the Royals on Sept. 15 ended the Tribe's 22-game winning streak, the longest run in American League history.
"Stuff like that doesn't happen very often," said outfielder Jay Bruce, who will forever have a home in Indians lore thanks to "The Streak." "It was kind of the final hat tip to the streak. We really appreciated it. It was great."
For three weeks, no one could stop the Indians, who rewrote the record books along the way and provided one of the signature moments of the 2017 baseball season. In the sport's long, storied history, only the 1916 New York Giants enjoyed a longer string of consecutive victories with 26. The A's won 20 in a row in 2002 for the previous AL record, and Hollywood made a movie about it.
This streak starred Corey Kluber in a leading role as the ace, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez as the dynamic duo and Francona as the steady hand at the controls. It featured a club that found its rhythm in every facet of the game, and saw the story wrap up with a dramatic finish. For the 22nd straight win, Bruce pulled a pitch into the right-field corner for a walk-off double in extra innings, setting off a mob scene with fireworks popping and a stadium shaking.
It was a surreal run of dominance arguably unlike anything baseball had ever previously witnessed.
"It's something special," Lindor said. "It's going to be there forever."
There are many ways to illustrate just how overpowering Cleveland was during the streak, which began on Aug. 24 against the Red Sox and concluded with the Sept. 15 loss against the Royals. One way is to point out that the Indians posted a plus-105 run differential during the 22 wins. That was not just the best mark over any 22-game period in Indians history, but the best by any Major League team in a 22-game span since the 1939 Yankees.
Over the course of the 22 games, the Indians' rotation went 19-0 with a 1.77 ERA, the bullpen turned in a 1.17 ERA and the staff pitched seven shutouts as a group. The lineup hit .306 with a .937 OPS overall, with Lindor leading the charge with nine homers, 20 RBIs and 31 hits. Ramirez paced the offense with 20 extra-base hits, including 14 in an eight-game stretch at one point.
The Indians scored first in 19 of the 22 games and trailed after just eight of 199 innings. Cleveland had more home runs hit (41) than runs allowed (37) and outscored its opponents, 69-14, in the first three innings combined during the streak. The Tribe scored early and often, and then just kept the foot on the gas.
The streak also broke Cleveland's franchise record of 14 wins in a row, which was established just one year earlier. The Indians became only the third team in the Modern Era (since 1900) to have winning streaks of at least 14 games in back-to-back years. The 1912-13 Giants and 1935-36 Cubs also achieved the feat.
"It's pretty crazy to think about," Kluber said, "just because you play so many games in so many days over such long stretches. To go almost three weeks without losing a game is not something that you ever really expect."
Throughout the winning streak, it was hard to get any players to discuss the historic event in much detail, though. They often returned to familiar cliches about taking things one day at a time and focusing on the task at hand. As the victories piled up, so did the monotonous quotes about not looking too far ahead or getting caught up in the moment. That increasingly prevalent mentality was a product of the culture created in Cleveland by Francona.
Francona preaches having a singular focus each day without looking back or worrying about what is to come. During his five seasons in Cleveland, where he has had much of the same core group developing together, that mindset has been adopted, embraced and integral to the Tribe turning into one of the AL's top teams. It served the team well in its run to the World Series in 2016, and was again important during the 22-game streak.
"We've had that mindset for the past two and a half, three years that I can remember," Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said. "It's not about the individual stats and that kind of stuff, or the records. It's about doing whatever we can to win today and see what happens. When we have that kind of mindset and that kind of approach, it turns out well."
For win No. 20, Kluber spun a shutout against the Tigers at Progressive Field. During the 21st victory, Bruce launched a key home run against Detroit. Later that night, he exchanged texts with Scott Hatteberg, whose walk-off homer for the "Moneyball" A's delivered win No. 20 back in 2002.
"I just said, 'Who would've thought,'" Bruce recalled. "And he said, 'Good luck, get another one.'"
The Indians did get one more -- thanks to heroics from Lindor, Ramirez and Bruce in the final two frames of a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Royals -- and ended the season with 33 wins in their final 37 games. One day after the streak was snapped, the Indians defeated the Royals and then popped champagne in their home clubhouse to celebrate a second consecutive AL Central crown. What Cleveland could not do after its 102-win campaign was carry that momentum deep into October.
The Indians did not get a World Series ring, but their streak will forever have a place in baseball history.
"Winning 22 consecutive games," said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, "doing something no team has done for over 100 years, that's a great accomplishment. It's not the one we sought out to do. It's not the one we wanted. But there's still a lot of great things that happened during the course of the year."