CLEVELAND (AP) — Pinch-hitter Jason Giambi belted a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning to give Cleveland a stunning 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night, keeping the Indians up with the lead pack in the AL wild-card race.
Giambi drove a 1-1 pitch from Addison Reed (5-4) deep into the lower deck in right field to prevent a potentially devastating loss for the Indians, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2007. Giambi’s heart-pounding shot bailed out controversial closer Chris Perez, who gave up two homers in the top of the ninth and nearly blew a game Cleveland had to have.
As he rounded third base, the 42-year-old Giambi slowed down before being engulfed at the plate by his teammates as the Indians celebrated their 13th straight win over Chicago.
Bryan Shaw (6-3) came in after Perez had nearly given away a game the Indians couldn’t afford to lose.
Giambi has been a steadying force all season for the Indians in the clubhouse, and the unquestioned Drama King on it.
This was his 10th career walk-off homer, and his second pinch-hit, walk-off this season. On July 29, he became the oldest player to hit a walk-off homer, breaking a mark previously held by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. Now, Giambi has become the Indians’ elder statesman of swat.
Perez owes him big time.
In the top of the ninth, Perez, who has walked a tightrope on and off the field all season, had to be pulled by Indians manager Terry Francona after failing to close out a 3-2 lead.
Cleveland came in holding the second AL wild-card spot, one game ahead of Texas and one behind Tampa Bay. And with five games left, any loss can be devastating.
On this night, Giambi saved Perez, the Indians — and maybe their season.
With the Indians leading 3-2, Perez gave up a homer to Dayan Viciedo, a shot into the right-field seats that drew a groan from Cleveland fans the moment it left his bat. Perez struck out the next two hitters, but Alejandro De Aza connected on his next pitch, driving it over the wall in right-center. Perez stalked around the mound with his head down before giving up a single to Alexei Ramirez.
That brought out Francona to a loud ovation and Perez, who has been a lightning rod of debate over the past two seasons, was booed loudly as he left the field.