CLEVELAND (AP) — When reality set in, the ovation steadily grew as the Cleveland Indians emerged from their dugout.
With the scoreboard showing a loss and the Kansas City Royals shaking hands and high-fiving each other nearby, the Indians tipped their caps to salute fans who came hoping to see more late-inning magic and a record streak continue.
You can’t win ’em all.
Cleveland’s historic run is over.
The Indians, who captured America’s attention during a dominating three-week run, had their AL-record winning streak stopped at 22 straight on Friday night with a 4-3 loss to the Royals, who became the first team to conquer the defending league champions since Aug. 23.
Jason Vargas (16-10) pitched into the sixth and Brandon Moss homered off Trevor Bauer (16-9) as the Royals, who were beaten five times by Cleveland over the past few weeks, ended baseball’s longest win streak in 101 years.
But when it ended, there was a celebration as a crowd of 34,025 fans saluted a team that took them on an improbable ride they are unlikely to see again in their lifetimes.
“They’ve been so supportive,” said Indians manager Terry Francona, who led his team out of the dugout to return the love to the crowd. “The atmosphere around here is incredible and I think our players wanted to show their appreciation. It’s by no means the last game of the year or anything like that, it’s just been pretty incredible how they’ve reacted and we just wanted to show our appreciation because we don’t take it for granted.
“I don’t think anything is over.”
The Indians set a new league mark and came within four of matching the overall record held by the 1916 New York Giants, a 26-game string that became the subject of scrutiny because it included a tie in the middle.
But despite the loss, Cleveland’s magic number for clinching the AL Central dropped to two after second-place Minnesota was beaten by Toronto.
Following a magical, walk-off win in extra innings on Thursday night, the Indians couldn’t muster another late rally.
When Francisco Lindor, one of the stars in Cleveland’s 3-2 win on Thursday, struck out with a runner on first to end it, the crowd experienced the slightest moment of disappointment before appreciating what they had just seen. And as they stood and cheered, the Indians clapped in return.
“It’s been great,” Bauer said. “They came out, they supported us. The atmosphere last night and tonight was spectacular. Shoot, even tonight after the loss, everyone was standing and stuff like that. It was a pretty cool moment.”
The Indians, who are already assured a playoff spot, not only broke the previous AL record of 20 held by the 2002 “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics, but they served notice that they well could be the team to beat in the postseason as they attempt to get back to the World Series and perhaps end their 68-year title drought after the Chicago Cubs halted their 108-year dry spell at Cleveland’s expense in 2016.
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