Giambi sends Indians to fifth straight win, beat Chicago 3-2
Tribe celebrates in dramatic fashion as Big G delivers in the clutch
CLEVELAND—With one swing of the bat at 42 years and 202 days young, Jason Giambi entered himself in Major League Baseball record books Monday night at Progressive Field.
Pinch hitting with the Tribe and Chicago White Sox tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth, “Big G” became the oldest player in baseball history to hit a walk-off homer giving the Indians the 3-2 win. The blast also sent the team to their fifth straight victory now winners of six of their last eight.
“There’s nothing more special in this game than to do that,” Giambi said. “That’s what keeps you coming back every single year is that moment. Winning a ballgame and celebrating after a walk-off. There’s nothing better.”
It was the Indians second walk-off blast in their last four games, as Cleveland (57-48) moves 2 1/2 games in back of the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central. The team also inches just a half game behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second A.L. Wild Card spot.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” Giambi said. “I just wanted to hit it and got a pitch up in the zone and ended up catching up to it.”
The solo shot off White Sox Ramon Troncoso was Giambi’s seventh of the season, as his teammates celebrated in dramatic fashion with another mob scene at home plate.
“I don’t care where it went as long as it went over that yellow line,” Nick Swisher said. “To have a guy like that in the locker room and for him to hit the game winning home run, it was electric. He's almost like a player-coach. It just kind of seems like when a guy like that helps us out and does that, it’s like the party is off the charts.”
His manager had even better things to say about the five-time All-Star.
"I keep trying to say how I feel about him, I just don't think I ever quite get there," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That's how valuable I feel he is to our team."
The party may have ended memorable, but it was another dismal night offensively as Chicago left-hander John Danks (2-8, 4.57 ERA) limited the Tribe to just two runs on two hits through six innings.
Like they have over the last three weeks, the offense was bailed out on another solid starting pitching performance this time by Zach McAllister (4-6, 3.48 ERA).
Z-Mac gave up just two runs on five hits to Chicago over seven innings of work, giving him his seven quality starts on the season.
"He battled," Francona said. "I thought he threw the ball well and used both sides of the plate. The more reps he gets the tougher he's going to get."
For the 16th consecutive game, the Indians would score first in the second inning, as Carlos Santana’s sacrifice fly put the Tribe up 1-0 early. Getting on the board first proved to be even more valuable this time, as the team broke the franchise record set of consecutive games of scoring first set back in 1906.
After the early run, things remained quiet until the sixth as the ChiSox finally put runs on the board against McAllister. A two out double by right fielder Alex Rios ended up being costly as Chicago plated two runs in the inning. First on a RBI double by Adam Dunn before Tribe killer Paul Konerko put the Pale Hose ahead 2-1 on a RBI single.
Cleveland stormed right back in the home half of the sixth, as they loaded up the bases with no outs against Danks. It was the southpaw that would work his magic, surrendering just one run on an RBI groundout by Asdrubal Cabrera to tie the game up at two.
Cody Allen and Rich Hill relieved McAllister tossing 1 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball before closer Chris Perez was summoned to pitch the ninth. Serving up a two out triple to White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo that Ryan Raburn misplayed in right, Tribe left fielder Michael Brantley made a nice over the shoulder catch to end the threat.
The night itself belonged to Giambi just three pitches later in the bottom of the ninth.
"We made some mistakes, but it didn't cost us the ballgame because guys picked each other up," Francona said. "That's huge."
The win ties a season-high putting Cleveland nine game over the .500 mark for the first time since May 20.
"I’ve been preaching all year that one guy is not more important than another,” Giambi said. It’s going to take all 25 of us or even more to win ballgames and we’ve done it all year. It’s been exciting to be a part of.”
Interviewed as a finalist for the Colorado Rockies manager job this offseason, the Tribe’s designated hitter has without question made his presence known both on and off the field.
I love how we’re growing,” Giambi said. “We’re going to keep learning and learning and getting better. I always keep saying, even the down times we’re learning and it’s exciting how it’s all coming together.”
Giambi is now hitting .194 with six doubles, seven homers and 24 RBI in 45 games on the season.
Despite the team finishing the game 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and collecting just four hits on the night, Swisher is far from worried.
“Maybe as not as well as we would have liked to play, but a win is a win and that’s all we care about. In general it was a great game for us and for Big G to come up and do what he did for us, it was crucial.”
The Tribe will turn to left-hander Scott Kazmir (6-4, 3.96 ERA) in game two of the four game series Tuesday against 2007 N.L. Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy (8-4, 4.28). Kazmir has won a season-high three straight decisions, and is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in five July starts. Subject of trade rumors with the July 31 MLB Trade Deadline looming, Peavy may be a late scatch Tuesday if in fact Chicago makes a deal.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Jason Giambi (42 years, 202 days), 2013
2. Hank Aaron (42 years, 157 days), 1976
3. Tony Perez (42 years, 110 days), 1984
MLB record book must be pretty thick.