On July 26, the Cleveland Indians defeated the Detroit Tigers 5-3 to complete a series win over the Tigers and creep to within 3½ games of the AL Central lead, and the same distance behind the then-second-wild-card team, the Athletics.
It seemed as if the Indians might make a deadline deal to bring on some hitting help, or even another starting pitcher. But then they started losing, and losing, and losing... 11 consecutive games, allowing at least five runs in all 11 games and being outscored 95-26 (!) in those 11 contests. They moved from "very close" to the wild-card and division leads to "far behind" both, 10½ games out of the division lead and nine games behind the wild-card leaders. They made just one small trade before the non-waiver deadline, acquiring outfielder Lars Anderson from the Red Sox for pitcher Stephen Wright.
They might be out of playoff contention, but Wednesday, they snapped the 11-game losing streak by defeating the Minnesota Twins 6-2, mostly behind a solid pitching effort from Justin Masterson. Shin-Soo Choo went 4-for-4 and drove in a pair of runs, and the Tribe was also helped by an error by Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who also lost a ball in the sun that helped Cleveland score two runs.
The 11-game loss streak tied for the longest in Cleveland history (1928 and 2009 were the other years in which an Indians team lost 11 in a row) and was the fourth-longest losing streak of 2012 (the Astros, Cubs and Royals have all posted 12-game losing streaks this season).
The Indians are a confusing team. They roared out to an early lead in the AL Central in 2011, and still held first place last year as late as July 18 before going into a 29-38 fade and finishing under .500. This season, they were 37-33 and in first place on June 18; since then, including the streak-breaker Wednesday, they've gone 14-27 to fall far from contention. It seems to be mostly the pitching; the Tribe is ninth in runs scored, which isn't great, but dead last in runs allowed in the American League; Zach McAllister is the only pitcher in the rotation with an ERA under 4.00 (and Masterson the only other one with an ERA under 5.00). They're playing five games worse than their Pythagorean projection -- and even at that, are nine games under .500.
They won't be a factor in playoff races the rest of this year, but if they can solidify their pitching issues, they could get out to a hot start in 2013 -- and maybe stay atop their division instead of flopping.