The Cleveland Indians are closing in on the win-streak record, but first we need to decide what the record is

Just one month after the Dodgers appeared to be on their own record-setting pace, the Cleveland Indians are in the midst of a spectacular run that has made them the talk of baseball.

The Indians won their 20th consecutive game on Tuesday night, shutting down the Detroit Tigers 2-0 thanks to another sterling effort from ace pitcher Corey Kluber. The victory tied the American League record for consecutive victories, set by the famous “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics in 2002.

With at least a share of the AL record secure, Cleveland fans will now turn their attention to another incredible milestone: the MLB record for the longest winning streak, set by the 1916 New York Giants.

Or is it?

That team, managed by the legendary John McGraw, is credited with 26 straight wins in September, 1916.

Baseball was a fundamentally different game a century ago: the ball was dead, the spitball was legal and the players were much more likely to stay in dingy boarding houses than luxury hotels when on the road. But unlike these details, the Giants’ record has stood the test of time and is still the streak to beat.

While it’s true that the Giants didn’t lose a game between September 7 and September 29, they didn’t win all of their matchups either. On September 18, they played the Pittsburgh Pirates to a nine-inning tie.

That game would have been headed for extra innings in today’s league, but that wasn’t an option before the advent of stadium lights. The game counted for statistical purposes, but the tie didn’t count in the standings, so history shows that the Giants won 26 straight. But the fact remains that they failed to win one of their games during that historic run.

All of this adds a new wrinkle to the Indians’ place in history. Discounting streaks that included ties, the next-longest winning streak came from the 1935 Chicago Cubs, a classic team that included names like Charlie Root and Chuck Klein. That team also went streaking in September, winning 21 straight games.

If that’s the true record, then the Indians are just one win away from matching one of the most incredible accomplishments in MLB history. As it is, they have already won as many consecutive games as any team has in the last 80 years, but to tie the all-time record would be a career achievement for the entire roster.

Of course, that’s only if you accept the Cubs’ record as the real mark to beat — Giants fans will insist that one unofficial tie doesn’t negate an entire month of victories. As in the debate over the single-season home run record, both sides have valid arguments.

But whatever your stance on the issue, it will be thrilling to see if the Indians can keep it going. Their next game is set for Wednesday against Detroit.

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