The Indians still own the second-longest winning streak in major league history, but their attempt to top the 1916 Giants’ 26-win streak is officially over. The club found it difficult to stay ahead of the Royals on Friday night, striking first on an Edwin Encarnacion sacrifice fly in the first inning and watching Alcides Escobar tie it up with a solo jack in the second inning.
Jose Ramirez harnessed a one-run lead in the third inning, barreling a Jason Vargas heater an estimated 425 feet over the left field fence and giving the team a minute to catch their breath:
Their advantage was short-lived. Brandon Moss catapulted a 404-footer in the fourth and was backed by two RBI from Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain. Vargas exited in the sixth, unable to harness a quality start in six consecutive attempts, but the Royals’ bullpen delivered where he could not. Ryan Buchter, Trevor Cahill and Mike Minor combined for four scoreless innings, limiting the offense to one hit and three walks and effectively quashing Cleveland’s chances of repeating Thursday’s theatrical walk-off.
That didn’t stop the Indians from making things interesting, from a wild catch in the eighth…
…to Yandy Diaz‘s pop up single in the ninth. Once Minor settled into a groove, however, he was unflappable, needing just 12 pitches to strike out the side and spoiling the Indians’ bid for good.
With the loss, the streak ends at 22 consecutive games, the longest winning streak in 101 years and second-longest in MLB history. The club is still four games away from tying the Dodgers’ 95-win mark and will need to stay ahead of them to clinch home field advantage throughout the postseason, but if anyone’s capable of getting there, it’s them.
The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.
Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.
With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.
Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.
Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.
Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.