In 2016, a 14-game win streak put the Cleveland Indians on the map. To earn that 14th win, the Tribe needed the heroics of Trevor Bauer and Carlos Santana.
Since the beginning of the 2016 season, the Cleveland Indians have found themselves involved in dozens of nail-biting fights to the finish. There have been impossible comebacks, white-knuckle pitchers’ duels, heroic walk-offs, and more.
The most readily available memory that comes to mind when we think about the most exciting Indians games in this span is Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. There are legitimate arguments to be made that Game 7 was the most exciting game of all time, all things considered. But the Indians lost.
With no baseball being played at the moment, we don’t need anymore reasons to feel downtrodden, so for the purposes of this countdown, Game 7 does not qualify. Instead, we’re going to count down the 10 most exciting games the Indians have won since 2016.
No. 10 on the list was a grueling, 19-inning war of attrition in Toronto during the summer when it all began.
July 1, 2016 – Indians (2) vs. Blue Jays (1)
The most exhilarating regular-season stretches since the Indians began their magical run four years ago include two extensive winning streaks, the second of which lasted a ludicrous 22 games in 2017. The first began in mid-June of 2016, and continued into July.
The Indians would have to earn the 14th and final win of that 2016 streak, as the Toronto Blue Jays dragged them through a low-scoring affair that only ended after more than two games worth of baseball had been played.
Among the more agonizing moments that would follow, the Indians loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but stranded all three runners.
Zach McAllister walked Devon Travis to begin the bottom of the 11th inning, then recorded the next two outs. A stolen base and a wild pitch later, Travis was on third with Troy Tulowitzki at the plate. After walking Tulowitzki, McAllister grappled to a full count with Smoak, who wound up hitting a harmless pop fly to Jose Ramirez in foul territory.
Both teams began to deplete their bullpens in a hurry as the game progressed, but one of them had Trevor Bauer and the other one did not. Bauer entered the game in the 15th inning and went the distance from there.
He worked his way out of a self-inflicted jam in the 16th, an inning in which two singles, a stolen base, and a passed ball allowed Tulowitzki and Kevin Pillar to reach scoring position with only one out. Bauer retired the next two hitters, stranding the pair and dousing the potential game-winning rally.
While Bauer was trying to log a quality start in extra innings, the Blue Jays were forced to turn to position players to toe the mound. The first was Ryan Goins, who quite admirably induced an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded to end the top of the 18th.
This was, of course, after Ramirez was caught in between third and home with no outs on a ground ball to second.
For anyone watching, that particular inning felt like a bad omen for the Indians. With the go-ahead run 90 feet from home plate twice and a utility infielder standing on the mound, it was imperative that the Indians found a way to push a run across. Fortunately, Bauer remained locked in and kept the Blue Jays off the board for yet another inning.
The second Blue Jays position player to pitch, Darwin Barney, was not as lucky as his predecessor. Carlos Santana launched a solo home run off of Barney to begin the top of the 19th inning, and Bauer shut the door in the bottom half of the frame, sealing a hard-fought 2-1 triumph for the Tribe.
Both teams left 17 runners on base and batted .100 or worse with runners in scoring position. If not for Bauer, the Indians very well could’ve lost this game. And despite running away with the AL Central, another tick in the loss column could’ve altered the course of the Indians’ future postseason run.
The Indians finished the 2016 season 94-67, one-and-a-half games better than the 93-69 Boston Red Sox (the Indians never made up a rain-out because Boston lost on the final day of the season, rendering any tiebreaker scenario irrelevant). The Red Sox won the season series over the Tribe, meaning they’d have had home field advantage in the ALDS if both teams finished with the same record.
Yes, the Indians swept the Red Sox that year, but who knows if having to play Games 1 and 2 in the hostile environment of Fenway Park could’ve played a role in how the series turned out for Cleveland? This just goes to show that even in a seemingly insignificant 19-inning snooze-fest in the first week of July, you can’t go down without a fight.
The Indians would go on to lose the final two games of this midsummer series in Toronto, one of them by an embarrassing score of 17-1. Still, it was during this winning streak that the Tribe began to display the first signs that something special was on the horizon.