Red Sox

Indians set American League record with 21st consecutive victory

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Indians set American League record with 21st consecutive victory

CLEVELAND -- For more than 100 years, American League teams have gone on winning streaks of varying lengths - short ones, long ones, double-digit ones.

Nothing, though, like the one the Cleveland Indians have pieced together.

A streak for the ages.

Moving past the "Moneyball" Oakland Athletics, the Indians set the AL record with their 21st straight win on Wednesday, 5-3 over the Detroit Tigers, to join only two other teams in the past 101 years to win that many consecutive games.

Jay Bruce hit a three-run homer off Buck Farmer (4-3) and Mike Clevinger (10-5) won his fourth straight start as the Indians, a team with its sights set on ending the majors' longest World Series title drought, matched the 1935 Chicago Cubs for the second-longest streak since 1900.

And in doing so, they separated themselves from every AL team since the league was formed in 1901.

"Who would've ever thought that we'd be in this situation?" Bruce said. "I can't even imagine."

Believe it.

Now that they've moved past those 2002 A's immortalized on film, the Indians are within five wins of catching the 1916 New York Giants, who won 26 straight without a loss but whose century-old mark includes a tie.

The Indians haven't lost in 20 days, and they've rarely been challenged during a late-season run in which they've dominated every aspect of the game.

"I think they're enjoying themselves," manager Terry Francona said as clubhouse music boomed in the background. "They should. I think what's kind of cool about our game is when you do things, and you do them the right way, I think it means more. Our guys are playing the game to win, the right way.

"That part's very meaningful. They should enjoy what they're doing. It's pretty special."

After leading 4-1, the Indians had to overcome a costly error and rely on their bullpen to hold off the Tigers, who have lost 11 of 12 to Cleveland and saw manager Brad Ausmus and catcher James McCann ejected from the series finale.

Roberto Perez added a homer in the seventh and four Cleveland relievers finished, with Cody Allen working the ninth for his 27th save.

With the crowd of 29,346 standing and stomping, Allen retired Ian Kinsler on a sinking liner for the final out, giving the Indians the league's longest streak since the AL was founded 116 years ago.

There was no big celebration afterward as the Indians simply congratulated one another and stuck to their routine.

"We're so focused," said Bruce, who arrived via trade last month from the New York Mets. "I thought we were playing the Royals today. ... Everyone comes here and gets ready to play today and I think that's something that speaks volumes."

During their streak, which began with a 13-6 win over Boston ace Chris Sale on Aug. 23, the Indians have rarely been tied, never mind equaled, for nine innings. They have been superior in every way possible.

Cleveland's starters have gone 19-0 with a 1.70 ERA, they've outscored their opponents 139-35 and trailed in only four of 189 innings.

Incredibly, the Indians have hit more home runs (40) than their pitchers have given up in total runs.

And while they've racked up win after win, the defending AL champs have reduced their magic number for winning their second straight AL Central title to four. They've also passed Houston for the league's best record, which will come into play in the postseason as the team with the best overall mark will have home-field advantage.

Now that they're alongside the 1935 Cubs, the Indians have a realistic shot of running down the 1916 Giants.

Cleveland opens four-game series on Thursday against Kansas City, which was outscored 20-0 on its three-day visit last month.

Francona was asked if he thought the Giants' run should be the record since it includes a tie.

"I wasn't there," he said, drawing laughter. "I've given that zero thought. I promise you I've given it no thought."

With a shot at AL history, Clevinger took the mound with Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" blasting through the ballpark's sound system, and Cleveland's crowd came to rock - and witness history - on a mostly sunny day.

Some parents kept their kids home from school and brought them to Progressive Field to see a once-in-a-lifetime event Cleveland residents may remember more than any solar eclipse. They cheered every two-strike count like it was October and there was something much bigger on the line. The Indians have viewed the streak as a perfect postseason warmup as they try to end a Series title drought dating to 1948.

Clevinger, who didn't allow a run in 18 innings over his three previous starts, was down 1-0 in the first after Jeimer Candelario touched him for a two-out RBI double.

But as they have done for the past three weeks, the Indians responded, with Bruce connecting for a three-run shot into the left-field bleachers.

"Expected, I would say by now," Clevinger said of the Indians' 3-run answer. "I don't think there was a second that I doubted we were going to score some runs or string together some hits."

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Don’t confuse the goal of a normal spring training with the likelihood one will follow.

Tyler Thornburg’s time with the Red Sox has been an ordeal. He’s optimistic he can have a regular spring training after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in June, a surgery that included the removal of a rib which is now on display at his parents’ house. 

He said Saturday, in fact, there’s a “very good chance” of a normal spring. But there’s also a chance his build up to regular-season form runs unevenly. And that would be OK.

“I started throwing Oct. 2, that’s when they kind of gave me the go-ahead to go tossing,” Thornburg said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “So I’ve been building up slowly since then, just trying to make sure we don’t have any setbacks or things like that, and ramp it up at a good pace. I’m throwing at 120-140 feet, so it’s about the pace I’d normally be on, granted I’d know 100 percent before where I was [under normal circumstances]. So things could be a little different."

Consider a few other things Thornburg said Saturday at Foxwoods.

“I don’t really think any of us really know how quick I’m going to bounce back necessarily as far as how quickly the recovery’s going to go in spring training after an outing,” Thornburg said. “But hopefully I mean it’s fantastic, and we can kind of just keep going.”

A bit of natural uncertainty. He missed an entire season, and the reason he missed an entire season is he had a lot going on medically. 

What appeared to be a shoulder injury was far from your usual, say, rotator-cuff matter. His was a nerve issue.

“Two of the neck muscles were incredibly hypertrophied, like overgrown, and they just started squeezing on the brachial plexus, where all the nerves run down,” Thornburg said. “I’d be sitting there watching a game and just a nerve thing would hit me and I’d almost get knocked over by it. As well as the first rib was getting pulled up and my hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, cutting off the blood circulation. Then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves they had to go and dissect all that off there.”

So the injury wasn’t simple, and now, the recovery process is really a whole-body matter. 

"There’s a lot off things your arm has to get used to between using different muscles, as well as my arm was kind of working through a scenario where it was trying to overcompensate for this and [trying] to relieve that,” Thornburg said. “So just worked a different way. Now your body has to remember how to actually properly work again. It’s a lot of neuromuscular stuff.”

Thornburg noted the possibility too he could be ready to go to start the season but not really ready to go back to back yet. Would the Sox then carry him on the big league roster, or continue to build him up elsewhere? 

Velocity won’t be there right away for Thornburg, he said: “But I mean that’s what spring training is for for most guys anyway.”

There’s a lot of optimism, but naturally, there’s a lot to be seen. 

“The rehab process, it's been a massive rollercoaster,” Thornburg said. “It really has. But I mean, I've been trying to take it week to week which has been a lot easier. There's the good days and bad days, just different kinds.”

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Coming off a phenomenal season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel spent the offseason in Boston. Not to be closer to Fenway Park, but for proximity to something far more important: the city’s first-rate medical community.

Kimbrel’s daughter, Lydia Joy, was born in November with a heart issue.

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“It’s been a lot,” Kimbrel said Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “My wife and I, we’ve kept it kind of private. But when she was born, she had some heart defects so we decided to stay in Boston and work with Children’s Hospital and just been going through that ordeal and it’s had its ups and downs but she’s doing great right now."

Focusing wasn't always easy in season, but Kimbrel said his daughter's condition has motivated him even more.

“They always say when you have a child, things change and they have," he said. "I’m definitely more focused towards her and her needs and our family needs. It’s just one day at a time and give everything I got. It’s real easy to look at her and understand everything I’m doing is for her and it makes it a lot easier.”

Kimbrel and his wife, Ashley, found out early in the 2017 season that they would be staying in Boston for the winter and were preparing.

“Everything has kind of gone as planned so far,” Kimbrel said. “She’ll have another surgery during spring training, so I’ll come back to Boston for a week and do that, but it’s been good. It’s definitely been tough, but one of the happiest, joyful times of our life.”

"Being in Boston, we feel blessed, because the doctors are the best in the world. Being able to work with them has been great.”

Kimbrel said his wife has stayed in touch with Travis Shaw’s wife. The Shaw family has had a similar experience, Kimbrel said.

“It seems like they’re doing pretty good,” Kimbrel said. “It’s been very encouraging to see.”

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