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Streaks

It was a record-setting week for the White Sox. Holy Cow! Hey Hey! You can put it on the board, yes!

Let's hope a couple of years from now we're celebrating for much different reasons, like a division championship or a pennant win. At the present time we'll have to be diverted by the role the Sox played last week in helping the Cleveland Indians to four victories in their current 18-game winning streak.

For less tongue-in-cheek plaudits, how about Jose Abreu hitting for the cycle last Saturday, just the sixth player in White Sox history to do so?

But first, the Indians' inspiring string of victories have catapulted the defending American League champions to the best record in the league, surpassing the Houston Astros, who had held that distinction since Opening Day.

Cleveland hasn't lost a game since August 23. They pulled into town last Monday for a four-game set, and the closest the Sox came to ending the streak was a 5-3 decision in the opening game. The Indians outscored our fellows 30-10 before departing for home where they swept a three-game weekend series over Baltimore.

The 1935 pennant-winning Cubs won 21 in a row for the longest streak ever, and the Indians can tie that mark if they can win three more at home against Detroit beginning tonight.

As far as win streaks go, the White Sox won 11 straight in 2010 for their longest string this century. The longest winning streak in White Sox history came in 1906 - in case you forgot - when the team won 19 straight. Actually it was more of an unbeaten streak since the Sox played to a scoreless tie against the Yankees in a game that apparently ended because of darkness. Back then those games were not resumed or replayed. The Sox had won 11 in a row prior to the tie, and they went on to win the next eight games, so technically they went 20 games without a loss. They also won the pennant before beating the Cubs, who had won an astounding 116 games, in the World Series.

While it wasn't a winning streak, the Sox were on fire between June 11th and 23rd in 1961 when they reeled off 19 victories in 20 games. Of course, that was the year of Roger Maris's 61 home runs as he led the Yankees to a 109-53 record. The Sox finished in fourth place 23 games behind. Today their 86-76 record probably would earn a wild card berth in the post-season.

As lovely and wonderful as winning streaks are, they often do not portend future success. When the Sox won six straight in April to raise their record to 13-10, there were false hopes that rebuilding doesn't necessarily equal heaps of losses.

The Cubs' 21-game streak 82 years ago occurred with 23 games remaining in the regular season. The Cubbies then dropped their last two games before getting beat by Detroit in the World Series. Alas, there is no record of North Side fans flying the "L" after that letdown.

When the 2002 Oakland A's of Moneyball fame won 20 straight games in August and September, they finished the year with 35 wins in their last 43 games. They matched the Yankees' 103 wins, but couldn't beat New York in the ALCS, losing in five games.

The 2001 Mariners, winners of 116 games which tied the '06 Cubs for most all-time, reeled off 15 straight wins in the middle of the year. Their dreams also were ended by New York in the league championship series, four games to one.

The 2000 Atlanta Braves also won 15 in a row early in the season en route to winning their division with a 95-67 record. The Cardinals then bumped the Braves in three straight in the division series.

Also, consider the 1977 Kansas City Royals who trailed the South Side Hitmen for most of the year before catching fire in late August and September. The Royals of Amos Otis, Hal McRae, Freddie Patek and George Brett closed out the season by going 27-6, including a 16-game winning streak at the start of September. Meanwhile, the Sox, who trailed Kansas City by two games at the end of August, posted a 17-16 mark at season's end as the Royals raced to the postseason.

Unfortunately for the Royals, the Yankees once again lay in wait to halt Kansas City's momentum by beating Amos and George and their teammates 3-2 in the ALCS.

The one team that boasted a long winning streak, 15 games, and remained strong was the 1991 Twins, who wound up beating the Braves in the seventh game of the World Series in that memorable 1-0, 10-inning masterpiece in which Jack Morris pitched a complete game shutout.

All of this might signal that the Dodgers, losers of 10 straight and 15 of 16, very well could rebound in this season's playoffs. Just a couple of weeks ago when the team was 90-36, the pundits were predicting at least 110 wins and very possibly a challenge to the all-time record of 116. Inexplicably, they can't beat anyone right now.

However, as we've seen, many teams that went on long winning streaks and closed out the season on a roll didn't experience success when it most counted. Don't assume the Dodgers are dead.

In the meantime, the Sox' Jose Abreu is very much alive. Not since 2000, when Jose Valentin did it, had a Sox hitter recorded a cycle, and Abreu accomplished it the hard way, waiting until his final at-bat in the eighth inning to leg out a triple to the alley in right center. He homered and doubled off former Cub and Sock Jeff Samardzija in the first and third innings, respectively, before blooping a single to left off reliever Josh Osich in the seventh as the Sox pummeled the cellar-dwelling Giants 13-1.

On Sunday Abreu smacked his 30th and 31st home runs as the Sox ran roughshod over San Francisco 8-1. Abreu's top home run total was 36 in his rookie season in 2014, so he's a threat to beat that mark. And he needs 10 more RBI to reach 100, which would tie Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols as the only players to drive in 100 runs their first four seasons in the big leagues.

Abreu has absolutely ravaged lefthanders this season to a tune of a .380 average. His second-inning homer over the centerfield wall on Sunday came on a knee-high fastball from lefty Madison Bumgarner that might have wound up in the dirt had Abreu taken the pitch. Instead he hit it over 400 feet.

While there won't be any long winning streaks to close out this White Sox season, at least Abreu's quest for 100 RBI is reason enough to keep watching along with the development of all the young talent.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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