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Please pay attention to the Indians, winners of 12 straight

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Thursday’s Say Hey, Baseball includes the streaking Indians, the Sonoma Stompers’ historic signings, and Congress lying to you about the minors.

Cleveland Indians v Atlanta Braves Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

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The Indians defeated the Braves on Wednesday, wrapping up a sweep to maintain their six-game lead in the AL Central over the Royals. That victory was also the 12th in a row for Cleveland, who suddenly looks great in a way that the other division leaders, the Rangers and Orioles, do not. Texas and Baltimore are good teams and worthy leaders, of course, but the Rangers have had a whole lot of luck in one-run games that overstate their greatness. The O’s have many of the same issues as the Red Sox and Blue Jays — they just happen to be the one thriving in the division at the moment.

The Indians, though, are 12-11 in one-run games, so there’s no weird inflation there, and have a run differential of +91 that’s based both on a solid offense and an incredible pitching staff. That lineup isn’t perfect — Yan Gomes is having a miserable season, Juan Uribe isn’t helping at the plate or at third, and Mike Napoli has been a league-average hitter at first — but it’s certainly good enough in conjunction with the league’s top rotation. The worst ERA+ among Indians’ starters is 132, and that’s from their ace, Corey Kluber. Who, by the way, dropped his ERA from 4.15 to 3.50 during June, so he’s starting to feel it, too.

Will the Indians finish the season as the AL’s best? There’s far too much baseball left to know that for sure, but they might have a better at shot at the claim than the Rangers or Orioles simply by being the more complete team. The offense is weak in comparison, sure, but Michael Brantley will be back eventually now that we know he’s only dealing with biceps tendinitis and not a shoulder injury, and they don’t need any of what everyone else will be looking for this deadline: pitching. Even without a healthy Brantley or an upgrade at the hot corner, the Indians could be well on their way to a division title.