Francisco Lindor popped out of the chair at his clubhouse cubicle and asked a question before any reporter could get one off.
“You guys aren’t going to ask me about the streak, are you?” Cleveland’s jovial shortstop said, smiling.
Well, yes. Yours.
While the Indians’ historic winning streak is no longer the talk of baseball, Lindor’s on a personal roll that’s become notable.
The All-Star set a club record with another extra-base hit and the Indians bounced back after having their AL record streak stopped at 22, beating the Kansas City Royals 8-4 on Saturday to clinch the Central title.
Lindor’s double in the sixth off Jason Hammel (8-12) gave him an extra-base hit in 10 straight games — a club record and four shy of the major league mark of 14, shared by Chipper Jones (2006) and Paul Waner (1927).
“I didn’t even know that,” Lindor said. “I saw it on the scoreboard.”
Carlos Carrasco (16-6) pitched into the seventh as the Indians improved to 32-5 in their last 37 games.
With the win, the Indians clinched the division as Minnesota lost at home against Toronto, and took the next step in getting back to the World Series.
Congrats, @Indians! Back-to-back AL Central champs!
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) September 17, 2017
A victory by the Twins would mean the Indians could lock up the division on Sunday, when ace and Cy Young contender Corey Kluber starts the series finale.
Lindor wasn’t planning on watching the Twins or celebrating if the Indians clinch while they’re at home.
“I’m watching the fight,” he said. “I’m watching the Canelo fight, eating pizza.”
Edwin Encarnacion hit his 35th homer for Cleveland.
Alex Gordon connected for the Royals, whose wild-card hopes took another blow as they dropped 18 1/2 games behind the Indians.
“They’re all hot,” Hammel said. “There’s a good reason they’re going to be wrapping it up.”
Less than 24 hours after losing for the first time in three weeks, the defending AL champion Indians returned to the business of taking their second straight division crown and ninth since 1995.
Following Friday’s 4-3 loss, the Indians were warmly saluted by their fans, who gave them a rousing standing ovation in appreciation for the longest win streak baseball has seen since the 1916 New York Giants won 26 in a row.
No doubt the streak was fun, but it served as little more than a September diversion for these Indians. They have one goal — a Series title — after losing in seven games last year to the Chicago Cubs.
“I was happy about that,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of his team’s ability to rebound. “I didn’t think we wouldn’t, but it’s nice to see them go right back to trying to be as good of a team as we can be.”
The sensational Lindor is leading their charge.
With the Indians up by a run and with two on in the sixth, Lindor doubled high off the left-field wall to make it 5-2. It was Lindor’s 40th double and broke a tie with Hal Trosky, who hit either a double, triple or homer in nine consecutive games for Cleveland in 1934.
“He’s using the whole field.” Francona said. “And he’s strong enough and he’s got probably 1,500 at-bats under his belt, so he knows the league and he understands situations more. That comes with experience. So he’s still every bit as dangerous. He just also is finding his hits, spraying the ball around.”
The Indians now have three pitchers — Kluber, Carrasco and Trevor Bauer — with 16 wins. They are the first Cleveland pitchers to earn at least 16 victories in the same season since Early Wynn, Bob Lemon and Herb Score in 1956.
Indians All-Star reliever Andrew Miller made his second appearance since returning from the disabled list and faced one batter. He retired Lorenzo Cain on two pitches.
Royals: All-Star C Salvador Perez (pulled muscle in right side) will likely be out until Tuesday, when Kansas City opens a series in Toronto. He hurt himself taking a swing on Thursday.
Indians: OF Brandon Guyer aggravated a wrist injury that sidelined him for six weeks earlier this season. He’ll undergo treatment and is expected to miss 5-to-7 days. … OF Lonnie Chisenhall will also miss a week after aggravating a calf injury. … OF Jason Kipnis got medical clearance to be activated Sunday and will play at least five innings in center field, his first time in the outfield since he was in the minors in 2009.
Kluber pitched a five-hit shutout in his last start and is 8-1 in his last nine starts. He’ll face LHP Danny Duffy, who will make his first start since Aug. 22 after spending time on the disabled list with a sore elbow.
All the scores from Saturday’s MLB games:
Washington Nationals 2-3 Los Angeles Dodgers
Houston Astros 8-6 Seattle Mariners
New York Yankees 9-3 Baltimore Orioles
Chicago Cubs 4-1 St Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds 2-1 Pittsburgh Pirates
Cleveland Indians 8-4 Kansas City Royals
Detroit Tigers 4-10 Chicago White Sox
Tampa Bay Rays 1-3 Boston Red Sox
Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 Oakland Athletics
Atlanta Braves 3-7 New York Mets
Miami Marlins 7-4 Milwaukee Brewers
Minnesota Twins 2-7 Toronto Blue Jays
Colorado Rockies 16-0 San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants 0-2 Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Angels 2-0 Texas Rangers