CLEVELAND -- The streak was placed in Corey Kluber's hands, and the Indians' ace refused to let go. Kluber took the mound at Progressive Field on Tuesday night, spun a complete-game masterpiece and carried Cleveland to a level only one other team has experienced in the long, storied history of the American League.
"It's pretty crazy to think about," Kluber admitted after the 2-0 win over the Tigers.
Pitching has powered this remarkable 20-game winning streak for the Indians, so there was some poetry to the fact that it was Kluber on the mound to secure that historic round number. Prior to this Cleveland club, only the 2002 A's of "Moneyball" fame had won that many in a row in AL history. One more win, and the Indians will tie the 1935 Cubs for the modern baseball record for wins in consecutive games.
Kluber knew the history at stake, but insisted that it was business as usual for the Indians.
Really, when looking at the production of the pitching staff over the past three weeks, and even farther back to the start of the second half, Tuesday night was indeed like plenty of others of late. This was Cleveland's Major League-leading 19th shutout of the season and seven within the winning streak. During the 20 straight wins, the rotation has gone 18-0 with a 1.71 ERA, as part of the 1.60 ERA for the staff overall.
Kluber sets the tone atop the starting staff.
"He's a true leader of a staff," Indians catcher Yan Gomes said. "This is the kind of guy that a pitching staff looks for and tries to rebuild. He's the model of it."
Kluber is in the midst of a personally impressive campaign that has thrust him to the forefront of the discussion for the AL Cy Young and Pitcher of the Year awards. Dating back to June 1, when he returned from a month-long bout with a back injury, the right-hander has turned in a 1.77 ERA with 202 strikeouts against 21 walks in 147 1/3 innings. As if that is not overpowering enough, Kluber has punched the gas during this streak.
On Aug. 23, Kluber struck out 12 and surrendered just two runs over 7 2/3 innings against the Red Sox. Still, he was saddled with a hard-luck loss, which just so happens to be the last time Cleveland was defeated. During the streak? The Tribe ace has four wins to go with a 1.41 ERA, 35 strikeouts and only two walks in 32 innings.
Against the Tigers, Kluber struck out eight, scattered five hits and ended with no walks in a 113-pitch gem.
"He's one of the best in the game -- never mind the division," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's got four pitches, and they all kind of look the same coming out of his hand, but they all move differently. He's very methodical. He's got good command. He doesn't walk a lot of guys, and he's just got outstanding stuff."
Recently, that assessment could be applied to each of Cleveland's starters.
While the team has overpowered its opponents offensively as well during this run, the Indians' plus-102 run differential in the past 20 games has been paved by the pitching staff. The lineup has delivered early leads -- Cleveland has scored first in 19 of the 20 games -- and the starters have gone into attack mode. And it all starts with Kluber.
"Everybody kind of looks up to him," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "because of the way he carries himself and the professional that he is. It's hard not to."
Kluber carried Cleveland to the record book on Tuesday.
True to his character, the team's stoic ace downplayed the streak.
"We're just going about our business," Kluber said.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.