With yet another four-game sweep, the Indians matched a feat last accomplished by the 1961 New York Yankees.
Now, they’d like to repeat something else those Bronx Bombers did in October.
Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn had two RBIs apiece as Cleveland, clinging tightly to one of the AL’s two wild-card spots with a week left, became the first team in 52 years to post six sweeps of a four-game series in a season with a 9-2 win Sunday over the Houston Astros.
According to STATS, the Indians are the first team since the `61 Yankees, a team featuring Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, to sweep six four-games series. The Yankees went on to win the World Series that season.
”We’ve got a week to go and we’re in a fun spot,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. ”We have to keep winning.”
Brantley hit a two-out RBI single in the fourth inning off Erik Bedard (4-12) and Bourn tripled in a four-run sixth as the Indians moved 1 1/2 games ahead of Texas in the AL’s wild-card scramble. The Rangers lost 4-0 at Kansas City on a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning.
Carlos Santana homered for the Indians, just a half-game behind Tampa Bay for first place in the wild-card standings. With six games to go, Cleveland controls its own destiny.
As long as they win, the Indians have no worries. And with upcoming games against the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins – the two bottom teams in the AL Central – things couldn’t be lined up any better.
In a season of twists and turns, there’s suddenly a straight path to the postseason.
”It has been one of those crazy years, a roller-coaster,” said first baseman Nick Swisher. ”We’ve had some great winning streaks and some great losing streaks. We’ve had everything, but I think that’s just a testament to us pulling together and staying tight.”
Corey Kluber (10-5) dodged trouble throughout 5 1/3 innings and the Indians improved to 50-18 against teams with losing records. Cleveland may not have an abundance of All-Stars or household names, but rather a collection of players pulling together. And in October’s chilly and electrified air, that’s the kind of team that can win it all.
”When we’re clicking on all cylinders, we’re hard to deal with,” Bourn said. ”We just keep fighting. We have a lot of ways to beat you. We can win with our pitching and we can win with our offense, too. We always know that and we always try to have each other’s backs.”
Chris Carter homered for the Astros, who lost their ninth straight and fell to 51-105 overall. In its inaugural AL campaign, Houston is two losses from matching the club record set last season.
”We’ll fight to the very end,” first-year Astros manager Bo Porter said. ”The number of losses, whether it’s consecutive losses, that’s not going to prevent this group or us as a staff from coming in here every day and putting up our best fight.”
Leading 3-2, the Indians broke it open in the sixth, highlighted by Bourn’s standup triple off reliever Philip Humber.
Bedard, who has lost nine of his last 10 decisions, gave up a leadoff single and hit a batter before Brantley chased the left-hander with an RBI single to make 4-2. After Aviles sacrificed, Bourn brought in two more runs with his shot into the right-field corner.
Swisher followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 7-2, giving the Indians their first comfortable cushion in four days against a Houston team that fought hard but made far too many mistakes.
Poor attendance has been an issue all year for the Indians, but a crowd of 26,168 – their largest for any Sunday home game this season – turned out to push them toward October.
”The atmosphere at the ballpark the last couple nights has been great,” Francona said. ”It should be. This is a fun team to watch.”
With just one week left, every game is vital for the Indians, who haven’t made the postseason since 2007.
They needed to sweep the Astros and did so, but it wasn’t easy. At this point in the season, nothing is.
Cleveland would seem to have the easiest path to the playoffs among the current wild-card leaders. The Indians have two home games against Chicago, a team they’ve beaten 15 of 17 times, and end the season with four at Minnesota.
Texas will host Houston three times and end with a four-game set at home against the Los Angeles Angels.
Tampa Bay will finish a wraparound series Monday with Baltimore and then go on the road for three games at Yankee Stadium and three in Toronto.
NOTES: Indians RHP Justin Masterson, out since Sept. 2 with a strained oblique muscle, threw a simulated game after the series finale. The team is being cautious with Masterson, but there’s a chance he could pitch in relief later this week or start in the postseason if the Indians qualify. … Plate umpire CB Bucknor took a foul tip off his right shoulder in the eighth, but stayed in the game. … The Indians are 16 games over .500 for the first time since `07, when they made it to the ALCS and lost to Francona’s Red Sox. … The Astros have scored just 14 runs during their nine-game slide.