The longest win streaks vs. one opponent

What does it mean for one team to have another’s number? A series sweep is a good start. But sometimes, that’s only the beginning. Streaks of one team beating another have, in some cases, stretched on for much longer Two of the most prolific examples are ongoing. When the Indians

What does it mean for one team to have another’s number?

A series sweep is a good start. But sometimes, that’s only the beginning. Streaks of one team beating another have, in some cases, stretched on for much longer

Two of the most prolific examples are ongoing. When the Indians and Tigers meet for the first time this season, Friday at Comerica Park, Cleveland will carry with it a 17-game winning streak over Detroit. And when the Yankees and Orioles next go head to head, on Sept. 4 at Camden Yards, New York’s 18-game streak against Baltimore will be on the line.

Neither matchup has made history quite yet. Going back to 1901, when the American League began play, the longest winning streak by one team against another is 23, set by the Orioles against the Royals between ’69-70. But now, that record could be in danger.

Here is a look at the nine longest streaks since 1969, when MLB expanded and split both leagues into two divisions apiece, creating an unbalanced schedule.

1) 23 games — Orioles over Royals
May 10, 1969 – Aug. 2, 1970
One of the new teams in the first season of the Divisional Era was the Royals, who joined the AL West. Over in the AL East, the Orioles were a powerhouse. Baltimore had won more than 90 games in three of the previous four seasons — with a World Series title in 1966 — and would go on to post an absurd 318-164 (.660) record from ’69-71 while capturing three straight AL pennants. The expansion Royals were easy pickings. Kansas City won the teams’ first meeting on May 9, 1969, but Baltimore took the final 11 that season and swept all 12 in ‘70 before the Royals finally took a walk-off win in their first confrontation of ‘71. Over the streak’s two seasons, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson tormented K.C. by batting .388/.485/.738 with six home runs.

2) 18 games — Yankees over Orioles (active streak)
April 4, 2019 – present
The Yankees finished a cool 49 games ahead of the Orioles in the 2019 AL East standings, so it’s no surprise the teams were not evenly matched on the field. Still, the extent of that lopsidedness was startling. After Baltimore took two of three in the teams’ season-opening series, New York struck back with 16 straight victories — by a total margin of 136-69. The pitching-starved O’s couldn’t contain the Yankees’ powerful bats, especially that of Gleyber Torres, whose 13 homers tied for the most by any player against a single opponent in a season since Lou Gehrig went deep 14 times against Cleveland in 1936. New York since has started 2-0 against Baltimore in ’20 and now has homered at least once in all 21 matchups since the beginning of ‘19.

3-T) 17 games — Indians over Tigers (active streak)
April 11, 2019 – present
The 2019 Tigers became only the sixth team in the Modern Era (since 1900) to lose as many as 114 games in a single season, but their struggles were especially pronounced against the Indians. After Detroit beat Cleveland on April 10 to even the teams’ season series at 1-1, the Indians won each of the final 17 matchups, outscoring their opponent, 107-32. Cleveland’s talented pitching staff allowed no more than two runs in 12 of those 17 games, including six shutouts. It was the first time a single team blanked Detroit that many times in the same season since the 1954 White Sox. But with the Tigers looking much stronger so far in 2020 — thanks largely to an upstart offense — the Indians could have their hands full keeping this streak going.

3-T) 17 games — Brewers over Pirates
July 4, 2008 – May 5, 2009
This was a dark period for the Pirates, who lost 194 games from 2008-09 as part of a run of 20 straight losing seasons that finally ended in ’13. Meanwhile, things were turning around in Milwaukee. The ’08 club had a young core starring Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, and they acquired CC Sabathia at midseason to pair with Ben Sheets atop the rotation. Sabathia faced the Bucs three times down the stretch and allowed two runs over 22 innings, while helping push the Brew Crew to the postseason for the first time since 1982. Milwaukee went 14-1 against Pittsburgh that season, won its final 12 straight, then took five in a row to begin ’09.

5-T) 16 games — A’s over Tigers
May 6, 2017 – May 19, 2019
It took the Tigers rallying from 4-0 down in the late innings and then winning in the 11th inning last Sept. 6 in Oakland to stop this streak. They promptly lost the next two games and are 2-18 against the A’s over the past three seasons. During the 16-game streak, the A’s posted a team ERA of 2.55 and slugged .491 with 29 homers.

5-T) 16 games — D-backs over Reds
May 8, 2001 – Aug. 13, 2003
Not long before this stretch, both teams made blockbuster acquisitions of former Mariners stars, with the D-backs signing Randy Johnson in 1999 and the Reds trading for Ken Griffey Jr. a year later. Advantage Arizona, which surged to a World Series championship in 2001. D-backs pitchers posted a 2.03 ERA during this 16-game streak against Cincinnati, including a 1.50 mark in three starts for the Big Unit, who on May 8, 2001, in Phoenix, tied a Major League record by striking out 20 batters over nine innings in what became an 11-inning D-backs victory.

5-T) 16 games — Twins over Tigers
May 6, 2002 – Aug. 1, 2003
These AL Central foes have been quite evenly matched at times, such as in 2009, when Minnesota beat Detroit in a dramatic tiebreaker game for the division title. But this was not the case early in that decade, when the Twins won consecutive AL Central crowns from ’02-04. In the first of those seasons, the Tigers lost 106 games. In ‘03, they lost an AL-record 119. The Twins outscored the Tigers 99-32 over the course of those 16 straight victories, posting a 1.88 team ERA and batting a collective .323/.371/.539.

5-T) 16 games — Braves over Rockies
May 6, 1993 – May 22, 1994
When the expansion Rockies joined the National League in 1993, the Braves were early on in an incredible run of success. Atlanta’s worst-to-first run to the World Series in ‘91 kickstarted a streak of 14 straight NL East titles (excluding the ‘94 strike year). Into that situation stepped Colorado, which welcomed the defending NL pennant winners to Mile High Stadium early in their first season. The Braves won, 13-3. That set the tone for a 16-game streak in which Atlanta bats slashed a collective .310/.379/.534 with 29 homers and 126 runs scored (7.9 per game). The Rockies finally ended the streak in the final series before the strike took effect.

5-T) 16 games — Dodgers over Padres
Sept. 9, 1973 – Sept. 20, 1974
San Diego was another 1969 expansion entry, and it took the franchise some time to gain its footing, beginning with nine straight seasons of at least 89 losses. Meanwhile, up 1-5 in Los Angeles, the powerful Dodgers won 95 games in ’73 and 102 in ‘74, when they cruised to a World Series title. So it’s no shock that L.A. generally controlled the matchup at that time. The Dodgers won the teams’ final three games in ’73 and first 13 the next year, by a total margin of 121-38. Dodgers pitchers had a 1.95 ERA, with Hall of Famer Don Sutton allowing three runs over 34 innings, including a pair of shutouts.

Honorable mentions
10-T) 15 games — Astros over Mariners (6/6/2019-7/25/20)
10-T) 15 games — A’s over Mariners (4/7/2006-8/16/06)
10-T) 15 games — Expos over Padres (7/25/1993-5/24/95)
10-T) 15 games — Royals over Orioles (7/26/1987-4/11/89)
10-T) 15 games — Mets over Pirates (6/6/1986-4/9/87)
10-T) 15 games — Orioles over Blue Jays (9/8/1978-9/6/79)
10-T) 15 games — Red Sox over Mariners (5/4/1977-6/17/78)
10-T) 15 games — Braves over Padres (4/18/1974-9/15/74)

Longest streaks pre-Divisional Era
1) 22 games — Red Sox over Senators (8/31/1903-9/6/04)
2) 21 games — Yankees over Browns (5/10/1927-9/10/27)
3-T) 20 games — Pirates over Reds (5/31/1937-4/24/38)
3-T) 20 games — Cardinals over Phillies (7/15/1927-7/20/28)
5-T) 19 games — Yankees over A’s (8/12/1938-5/28/39)
5-T) 19 games — Cubs over Braves (6/12/1909-9/26/09)

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.