CLEVELAND -- It took 1,352 days, 559 games, the downfall of communism and the Mother of Winning Streaks to do it, but the Minnesota Twins finally regained sole possession of first place yesterday.
Minnesota rallied twice against Cleveland and extended its club-record winning streak to 15 games with a 4-2, 10-inning victory. That, coupled with Oakland's 11-7 loss to Milwaukee, vaulted the Twins into first place in the AL West. It marks the first time the Twins have been alone in first since their 1987 World Series championship season.
Minnesota's winning streak passes the Texas Rangers' 14-game string for the longest in the majors this year. A 16th consecutive victory against the Orioles tonight would tie the 1977 Kansas City Royals for the majors' longest winning streak since 1953, when the Yankees won 18 in a row.
"Who'da thunk it?" asked Al Newman, the latest Unofficial Winning Streak Hero of the Day.
Newman, playing second base in place of rookie Chuck Knoblauch, made several outstanding defensive plays as well as driving in a go-ahead run in the eighth inning and then scoring the winning run on Chili Davis' sacrifice fly in the 10th.
"What helps keep the streak going along is that it hasn't just been two or three guys doing everything," Newman said. "Kent Hrbek hasn't had to do everything, Chili and Kirby Puckett haven't had to do it. It's been the Chuck Knoblauchs and the Scott Leiuses and the Paul Abbotts all doing their share."
The Twins continue to downplay the streak, but they nonetheless are reaching some rarefied air.
Of the 11 previous AL teams to win 15 or more games in a row, nine went on to win their league or divisional titles.
"In that case I hope this streak dictates that kind of season for us," Newman said.
It won't be easy. Despite winning 18 of their past 19 games, the Twins are only 4 1/2 games ahead of the fifth-place Mariners. In other words, it's a tough division.