The Indians’ historic 22-game winning streak is over

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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.

Bryce Harper will not be discussing his impending free agency with the media

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Bryce Harper is entering his walk year and it is widely expected that the Scott Boras client will, indeed, test out free agency next fall rather than engage in any substantial way with the Washington Nationals about a contract extension. There were some “casual conversations” between the parties in the early fall of 2017, but the Nats came away from that, quite reasonably, believing that Harper, who stands to land the largest contract in baseball history, will shop around.

For his part, Harper met the media on his first day of spring training workouts and let everyone know that, no, he does not plan to answer questions about his potential free agency every day between now and November. From MASN:

“Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all,” said Harper. “Iā€™m focused on this year. Iā€™m focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott and he can answer you guys.”

Makes sense. The alternative would be for Harper to give the same canned “I’m only focused on our next game” responses in front of his locker 150 times this summer, and that doesn’t serve anyone.

Thinking back to any other impending free agent’s comments about his free agency, I can’t remember a story along those lines which was worth much of anything. The genre generally consists of headlines which oversell an innocuous or offhand comment from a player as a means of guessing where his head is at with respect to his current team. I can’t think of any story in which a player, during his walk year, said something that concretely and definitively signaled his intensions in free agency one way or the other.

Reporters covering the Nationals who are curious as to how Harper feels about his current team at any given time would be better served just observing and inferring, with particular attention paid to how Harper and his teammates view the Nats’ competitive position as the season goes on, how they react to trades and stuff like that. There’s a lot of guesswork in all of that, but it sure beats trying to get a media savvy player like Harper to admit, after going 1-for-4 against the Phillies, where he plans to spend the next seven to ten years of his professional life.