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Joe Posnanski

Definitive breakdown of Tribe's historic streak

Indians have trailed for just four full innings in 21-game run

Definitive breakdown of Tribe's historic streak

You might have heard that Cleveland has won 21 games in a row.

This is amazing enough -- it's a mathematical wonder, really. On Aug. 23, after losing to Boston 6-1, the Tribe had a .552 winning percentage. The odds against a .552 team winning its next 21 games is 262,589-to-1. The Indians are clearly better than a .552 team -- their win percentage after the 21-game winning streak is .616. And the odds of a .614 team winning 20 in a row is a much better but hardly probable 26,229-to-1.

What's crazier is that Cleveland is somehow playing better than its winning streak.

Whenever a team goes on a long winning streak, you expect luck to play a part. That is to say, you would expect the team to win a few one-run games, to have some crazy comebacks, to steal a game or two that it had no business winning. This is the character of baseball, where bad teams beat good teams all the time. The Dodgers somehow still have the best record in the Majors; the Giants have the second worst. Those teams have played 15 times this year. The Giants have won seven of those.

So, yes, you would expect for any team -- even a team as wonderful as the Tribe -- to need a little bit of fortune and serendipity to win 21 games in a row. And that's the thing: Cleveland has not needed any of that.

Four innings.

That is the total number of frames in this crazy streak when Cleveland has actually trailed. Four innings. This team has been so absurdly commanding during this streak that after beating Detroit, 2-0, on Tuesday for win No. 20 -- and never really being threatened -- pitcher Corey Kluber remarked that this was a tougher game than most of them.

"We've had so many blowouts," Kluber said with awe in his voice.

Kluber on 20-game winning streak

Yes, they have. Wednesday afternoon, the Tigers actually scored first. Cleveland promptly scored three runs in the bottom of the frame and never trailed.

Four innings -- that's all the Indians have trailed.

Here's the game-by-game rundown.

Win 1, Aug. 24 vs. Boston
The streak began innocently enough. Cleveland had lost two in a row to the Red Sox -- by a combined 15-2 score -- so no one was thinking about starting the longest winning streak in American League history. The Tribe took a 7-1 lead early and rolled to a 13-6 victory. They never trailed. Recap

Win 2, Aug. 25 vs. Kansas City
Cleveland took a 2-0 lead in the third on hits from Yan Gomes, Giovanny Urshela and Austin Jackson and cruised to a 4-0 win. Four pitchers threw the eight-hit shutout, No. 1 during the streak. We will keep track of those. They never trailed. Recap

Win 3, Aug. 26 vs. Kansas City
Cleveland didn't score the first five innings -- a rarity in this streak -- but Tribe pitchers were so baffling, the Royals' hitters didn't matter. The Indians didn't take the lead until the sixth, and they crushed another two in the seventh for a 4-0 win. Shutout No. 2. They never trailed. Recap

Win 4, Aug. 27 vs. Kansas City
The Indians scored three in the first and nine in the second. Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Gomes homered in a 12-0 final. It was a record-setting weekend of futility for Kansas City's offense. Shutout No. 3. They never trailed. Recap

Win 5, Aug. 28 at Yankees
Finally, the Indians trailed. Sort of. With the score tied in the fifth at Yankee Stadium, New York's Todd Frazier singled in Jacoby Ellsbury to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. The Yanks led for roughly nine minutes before Cleveland's Jose Ramirez tied it with a homer. We need a ruling on whether it counts as a team trailing when it ties the game the very next half inning. Either way, the Tribe rolled from there for a 6-2 victory. Cleveland trailed one inning. Recap

Statcast: Ramirez's two homers

Win 6, Aug. 30 at Yankees
In the first game of a doubleheader, Cleveland scored two in the first and made it stand for a 2-1 victory. I was at this game: beautiful afternoon, clear blue sky. The Yankees did threaten a couple of times. The Indians never trailed. Recap

Win 7, Aug. 30 at Yankees
In the second game of a doubleheader, the Indians scored four in the first on five hits and two walks and won, 9-4. It was now clear that something good was happening. They never trailed. Recap

Win 8, Sept. 1 at Detroit
After a day off, Cleveland played another doubleheader. This was the testiest game of the streak so far. Cleveland led 1-0 and 2-1, but the Tigers came back to tie both times. The Tribe put it away in the ninth on Lindor's run-scoring single as Cleveland won, 3-2. The club never trailed. Recap

Lindor's go-ahead RBI single

Win 9, Sept. 1 at Detroit
The second game of the doubleheader was not testy at all. Cleveland won, 10-0, despite not playing Lindor or Ramirez. In their place, Urshela and Erik Gonzalez went 5-for-10 with two doubles and three RBIs. Shutout No. 4. The club never trailed. Recap

Win 10, Sept. 2 at Detroit
The Indians' first-inning scoring is becoming a story. Cleveland scored four in the first, with back-to-back triples by Bradley Zimmer and Ramirez at the heart of the scoring. The Indians cruised to a 5-2 victory and never trailed. Recap

Win 11, Sept. 3 at Detroit
Three doubles and two homers for Ramirez were the highlights of an easy 11-1 victory. Cleveland cracked 16 hits -- Ramirez went 5-for-5 -- and never trailed. Recap

Must C: Ramirez's two odd homers

Win 12, Sept. 4 at White Sox
This one was somewhat prickly. The White Sox kept coming back but never quite made it all the way back. Cleveland led 3-0, and Chicago scored two. Cleveland led 4-2, and Chicago scored one. It came down to Ramirez, of course. He homered in the eighth to put the game on ice, 5-3. The Indians never trailed. Recap

Win 13, Sept. 5 at White Sox
Trail alert! Cleveland scored three in the first, so this seemed like it would be yet another cake walk. But the White Sox scored four in the bottom of the inning to take the lead. Exciting! Cleveland was so distraught after blowing the lead that it took the Tribe roughly nine minutes to tie the game (on a Ramirez home run, of course). In the third, Greg Allen hit a two-run double, and Gomes later hit a three-run homer. The final score was a less-than-dramatic, 9-4. Cleveland trailed one inning. Recap

Must C: Ramirez slugs two homers

Win 14, Sept. 6 at White Sox
There was nothing too provocative about this one: Cleveland's Tyler Naquin drove in the first run on a sacrifice fly, Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer in the eighth and the Tribe rolled to a casual 5-1 victory. The White Sox scored their run in the bottom of the ninth to spoil what would have been Cleveland's fifth shutout of the streak. The club never trailed. Recap

Win 15, Sept. 7 at White Sox
Cleveland scored four in the first -- Edwin Encarnacion's three-run homer was the big blow -- and the Indians sailed to an 11-2 victory. Lindor, Gonzalez and Allen also homered. Cleveland never trailed. Recap

Win 16, Sept. 8 vs. Orioles
Cleveland scored three in the first -- another three-run homer by Encarnacion did the trick. Mike Clevinger and three relievers took it from there to throw Cleveland's fifth shutout of the streak in a 5-0 victory. The club never trailed. Recap

Win 17, Sept. 9 vs. Orioles
Finally, the Indians trailed for more than nine minutes. Baltimore scored one run in the first inning and held on to that lead until Urshela's run-scoring double in the third. Jay Bruce's RBI single in the fourth gave Cleveland the leade it would never surrender. The Tribe won, 4-2, after trailing for two innings. Recap

Win 18, Sept. 10 vs. Orioles
Baltimore stayed tough. The score was tied going into the bottom of the sixth, when Roberto Perez and Lindor hit back-to-back homers. Baltimore's Chris Davis went deep in the seventh to add just a touch of intrigue, but only a touch. Relievers Joe Smith, Tyler Olson, Nick Goody and Cody Allen got eight straight outs, as the game ended with Cleveland winning, 3-2. This is a good time to mention that the Tribe's best reliever, Andrew Miller, has been hurt and has not played in any games during the streak. The Indians never trailed. Recap

Must C: Perez, Lindor lead Tribe

Win 19, Sept. 11 vs. Tigers
Cleveland had enough of those tough games. It put this one away early with five runs in the second inning, highlighted by Lindor's bases-clearing triple. Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco was not at his sharpest -- he gave up leadoff singles in four of his six innings -- but he didn't allow a run. Final: 11-0. Shutout No. 6. The Tribe never trailed. Recap

Win 20, Sept. 12 vs. Tigers
Lindor's homer in the first was all Kluber needed -- Cleveland won 2-0 to tie Oakland for the AL winning streak record. Kluber was masterful in his 113-pitch, five-hit complete game. Shutout No. 7. The Indians never trailed. Recap

Win 21, Sept. 13 vs. Tigers
Detroit actually scored a run in the first, only the second time during the streak that the opponent has scored first. But the game was in Cleveland, so it didn't even count as the Indians trailing because Bruce hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the inning to take a lead they would never relinquish. The Tigers were frisky, cutting the lead to 4-3 at one point, but Perez hit the insurance homer, and the bullpen did the rest. Cleveland won, 5-3, and never trailed. Recap

It is absolutely incredible: seven shutouts in 21 games. Outscored their opponents, 139-35. And the only innings Cleveland has trailed over 21 games:

1. End of the fifth at Yankee Stadium. Tied it in the top of the sixth.

2. End of the first at Guaranteed Rate Field: Tied it in the top of the second.

3. End of the first and second against Baltimore at home: Tied it in the bottom of the third.

So another way to say it is this: Cleveland has trailed for a full inning only ONE TIME during the streak. The Tribe trailed Baltimore, 1-0, in the second inning of a game. This is insanity.

More insanity: Cleveland has hit more home runs (41) than its opponents have TOTAL runs (35).

More insanity: Cleveland has seven shutouts during the streak, which is more than the Yankees, Rangers, Blue Jays, Royals, A's, White Sox and Tigers have ALL SEASON.

More insanity: Cleveland has outscored teams, 56-10, in the first two innings during the streak.

And more insanity: The entire Cleveland lineup is slugging .556 over these 21 games -- that is Frank Thomas' career slugging percentage. The entire Cleveland pitching staff has a 1.67 ERA, which doesn't even need a comparison for amplification. It's ridiculous.

But, really, it's all ridiculous.

Joe Posnanski is a No. 1 New York Times best-selling author, an Emmy Award-winning writer and has been awarded National Sportswriter of the Year. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.