Giambi walk-off homer sends Tribe to biggest victory of the year
42-year-old slugger keeps Indians in wild card race with win over Chicago
CLEVELAND—There are moments in baseball that make you believe something special is happening, especially in a pennant chase.
For the Indians, their most special player just may be a 42-year old with a .181 batting average.
With the Tribe trailing 4-3 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, pinch hitter Jason Giambi took White Sox closer Addison Reed deep for a game-winning walk-off homer to give the Indians a remarkable 5-4 win.
“It’s stuff you dream about,” Giambi said. “Coming down the stretch trying to get a playoff berth, it doesn’t get any bigger than that. I’m speechless.”
Cleveland (87-70) improves to 17 games over the .500 mark for the first time since Aug. 28, 2007, remaining one game ahead of the Texas Rangers for the second A.L. wild card spot. It was the club’s 11th walk-off win of the season.
“I think I have a man crush on G,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. It’s pretty awesome, that’s a lot of emotions in a one inning span. It certainly means no sleep tonight, and that’s ok.”
All wasn’t ok a half inning earlier, even with the Tribe leading Chicago 3-2 with closer Chris Perez in search for his 26th save.
White Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo took Perez yard on the third pitch he threw in the inning to knot the game up again at three. Then, three batters later, Tribe killer Alejandro De Aza smashed a solo homer of his own to put Chicago up one as playoff hopes hung in the balance for the 21,083 fans in attendance.
“I thought he left a couple pitches over the middle of the plate,” Francona said. “When you’re pitching in the ninth and you give up runs, they’re more glaring.”
Since August 3, Perez has given up 13 runs in 19 2/3 innings, owning a 5.95 ERA over his last 20 appearances.
Despite more struggles from the Tribe closer, the team received more great starting pitching from right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (12-9, 3.38 ERA).
While he wasn’t able to pick up the win, Jimenez recorded another quality start allowing only two runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings.
“I thought the second time through the order he wasn’t as crisp as he’s been, but to his credit he’s been a good pitcher,” Francona said.
He didn’t receive much run support early, but it wouldn’t matter on this night, as Cleveland went onto score four runs on five hits over the final three innings.
The home run by Giambi just may have saved the Indians season.
“He’s always ready and that’s why he’s playing this game,” Francona said. “He’s willing to do anything for anybody at anytime and fortunately for us sometimes it’s when he steps in the batter’s box. As much as he does there, it’s not even remotely what he does throughout the organization. He’s been a blessing for us, myself included.”
“This is the ultimate team I’ve ever played on from top to bottom,” Giambi said. From guys on the bench, and bullpen, starters, and young kids coming up, it’s unbelieveable.”
For the 19-year veteran and one of baseball’s most recognizable sluggers, career home run No. 438 was the best of his career has hit on this night.
“Right now it’s top of the world. I don’t even think I touched the ground. We’ve picked each other up all season long, and we’re going to keep doing it. The way this season has gone and to be in this opportunity, wow.”
His teammates agreed.
“As soon as he hit it I threw all my stuff in the air,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “I can’t say what Tito and I were both were screaming, but to have something like that happen, that was one of the more fun games I’ve been a part of. I’ve been giggling to myself like a seven year old girl since I got in here.”
For the second time this season against the White Sox, Giambi has hit a walk-off homer with the last one coming back on July 29. The team has now won a franchise best 13 consecutive games over the ChiSox.
“That’s why we have 27 outs in this game,” Michael Brantley said.
It was Dr. Smooth who came up big to tie the game up in the bottom of the seventh with his tenth homer off Chicago starter Hector Santiago (4-9, 3.56 ERA). This came after collecting an RBI single to give the Tribe the early lead in the second inning.
“He saved our season there, 100 percent,” Nick Swisher said. “To go from a dead stand still where we were to come back and win it, that’s what good teams do, they pick each other up.”
Giambi picked up Perez twice, with his walk-off blast and hug after the game.
“I made him give me a hug,” the slugger said. “He was a little down and I gave him a big hug because he needed it.”
With just five games remaining and the team in the thick of a wild card race, Cleveland needed it the win too.
“I started crying when he hit that ball,” Swisher said. “The situation is so emotional. I don’t know if it’s magical or whatever you would say, but (expletive) we needed that win."
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.