DETROIT -- The mood in the visitor's clubhouse at Comerica Park after the Indians won their 10th straight game with a 9-7 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday night wasn't overly celebratory. The mood in that same clubhouse seven weeks back, when the Indians had just lost their 10th in a row, wasn't overly funereal.
And that's precisely the point. "That's something I've said for years now," catcher Kelly Shoppach said. "The makeup of the guys in this clubhouse is one that you can put a 10-game losing streak behind you and move on. It's the same attitude every day. You learn from the previous day and move forward." They've moved forward, all right. Despite trading the reigning Cy Young winner in CC Sabathia, one of their key clubhouse leaders in Casey Blake and a wily veteran starter in Paul Byrd, the Indians have found a winning formula that evaded them throughout a first half in which they fell out of playoff contention. They saved their best baseball for the days when they trot out a lineup altered by injuries, a rotation with two newcomers and a bullpen headed by a 24-year-old closer. It's not a formula that makes a heck of a lot of sense, but it works. And it worked again in a sweep of the Tigers that vaulted the Tribe into third place in the AL Central. This streak, to put it bluntly, didn't seem possible on July 9. In fact, according to Elias Sports Bureau, only 21 times in MLB history has a team had a losing streak and a winning streak of 10 games or more within a single season. An Indians team hasn't done it since 1979. "I'm pleased with the way the guys have fought through," manager Eric Wedge said. "They've had to endure quite a bit with the injuries and the trades. It's a credit to everybody in that locker room that they didn't give into the fight." On this night, the offense had to fight to back up an uneven outing from starter Fausto Carmona, who allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings. The 1-0 lead the Indians gave Carmona with Jhonny Peralta's RBI single off Justin Verlander in the first was negated by Curtis Granderson's leadoff homer in the bottom of the inning. And the 3-1 lead they handed Carmona with Grady Sizemore's two-run single the following inning was erased when Brandon Inge, Ramon Santiago and Granderson notched consecutive RBI singles off Carmona, who was struggling to find his sinker, in the bottom of the second. "The first couple innings, I was getting under the ball," Carmona said through interpreter Luis Rivera. "It was getting flat." The Indians were not deterred by the early 4-3 hole caused by Carmona's flat performance. As has been the case throughout the winning streak, they got key contributions from various members of the lineup. In the fourth inning, it was Shoppach smacking a Verlander fastball out to left for a two-run homer that gave the Indians a 5-4 lead. They would never trail again. "Momentum's a big part of the game," Shoppach said. "In any athletic competition, when you seize the momentum from somebody, they've got to do something to get it back." The Tigers never got it back, and especially not after Shin-Soo Choo gave the Tribe some breathing room in the seventh. Choo nearly took a Gary Glover fastball into the second deck in right as his two-run homer made it 7-4. Sure, the Tigers found a way to keep it interesting late. It was a 7-5 game heading into the ninth, but the Indians cranked out four straight singles off Bobby Seay and Kyle Farnsworth to bring in another pair of runs. Those runs were necessary when Jensen Lewis, sent out in a non-save situation, served up a two-run homer to Magglio Ordonez in the bottom of the inning. So while the Indians didn't have the easiest time taming the Tigers lineup, they did a fine job of rising to any challenge presented to them at the plate. That's really been par for the course throughout the streak, as the Indians are averaging 6.3 runs in their last 10 games. But to give all the credit to the offense is misguided. "I don't think any one thing has turned it around," Shoppach said. "The key to baseball is you've got to play good defense, have good pitching and get timely hits. It's not any different now than it was 100 years ago." It has been six years since an Indians team has won 10 games in a row. Of course, that 2002 club had its 10-game streak before it became a midseason seller in the trade market, not after. While the Indians, who have won 16 of 19 overall, might be flying in the face of logic, they aren't looking to land anytime soon. So they don't plan to get overly giddy about what has transpired the last two weeks. "You stay in the moment," Wedge said. "You don't want to get ahead of yourself, and you most definitely don't want to look back." If they did choose to look back, they'd see they're a long, long way from their last visit to this ballpark.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.