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Royals arrive to challenge Indians' historic win streak

CLEVELAND -- There is now only one hurdle left for the Cleveland Indians to clear in their quest for the longest winning streak in major league history.

With a 5-3 win over Detroit on Wednesday, the Indians have the longest winning streak in American League history at 21 games. The only team with a longer winning streak is the 1916 New York Giants, who had a 26-game winning streak, although there was a tie in the middle of that stretch 101 years ago.

The Indians will go for No. 22 in a row Thursday night at Progressive Field against the Kansas City Royals in the first game of a four-game series. Another victory Thursday would give Cleveland sole possession of the second-longest streak, pushing them past the 21-game run of the 1935 Chicago Cubs.

During their winning streak, the Indians (90-56) have outscored their opponents 139-35. Seven of the 21 wins in the streak came by shutout. Cleveland pitchers lead the major leagues with 19 shutouts.

The last time the Indians and Royals met was Aug. 25-27 in Cleveland. The Indians swept the three-game series and shut out Kansas City in all three games, outscoring the Royals 20-0 in the series.

That was in the early stages of the 21-game run.

One of the features of Cleveland's surge is the number of players who are contributing.

"Everybody pretty much has had a hand in doing something," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

"It doesn't matter who we put out there," Cleveland right fielder Jay Bruce said. "We've got guys up from Double-A ball taking meaningful at-bats."

The Royals (72-73) come into the series below .500 but still alive in the wild-card race. Kansas City is four games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second AL wild-card spot.

Catching up could be a difficult task, which means a handful of the Royals' pending free agents might be playing their final couple of weeks in a Kansas City uniform.

One of those who will be a free agent at the end of the year is first baseman Eric Hosmer, who is having a career year, hitting .325 with 24 home runs and a .905 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

If these are Hosmer's last days in Kansas City, nobody will miss him more than manager Ned Yost.

"It's just really, really rare that you've got a guy that's an elite performer, an elite person in terms of character and leadership and attitude and competitiveness and fight every day," Yost told The Kansas City Star.

The Thursday night pitching matchup will be Royals rookie Jakob Junis (7-2, 4.34 ERA) vs. Indians veteran Josh Tomlin (9-9, 5.13).

Junis appeared in one game against Cleveland this year, a 10-0 Royals loss on Aug. 18 in which he did not figure in the decision. In that game, he pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief and gave up four runs and five hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Junis hasn't lost a game since June 29. In eight appearances since then, six of them starts, he is 5-0 with a 3.18 ERA.

Tomlin hasn't lost a game since June 25, though he was out from July 31-Aug. 31 due to a left hamstring strain. In his past six starts, Tomlin is 5-0 with a 2.57 ERA, including a 2-0 mark and a 2.53 ERA in two starts this month.

In three games against the Royals this year, Tomlin is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA. In 24 career appearances against Kansas City, he is 10-5 with a 3.92 ERA.