Giambi's HR in ninth turns Indians despair to joy
SEP 25, 2013 12:23a ET
CLEVELAND -- Try to put that one into words.
The Indians had trouble, as Jason Giambi turned near despair into pure joy with a two-out, two-run home run to beat the Chicago White Sox 5-4 Tuesday night, a win that kept the Indians playoff hopes percolating and a hit that left Giambi at a loss for words.
“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. I really am.”
“I think I’ve got a man crush on ‘G,’” said manager Terry Francona.
Nick Swisher has played in World Series games and playoffs, but after he left the clubhouse he posted a simple statement on Twitter: “Greatest win of my life!!! #believeland”
It was that kind of moment, that kind of win, that kind of game.
It went from the lowest of the low, with Chris Perez blowing a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth by giving up two solo home runs. Perez left with two outs to a cascade of boos and the White Sox leading by a run.
Chicago brought in closer Addison Reed, and he got a quick out before Michael Brantley hit a slow roller on a 2-2 pitch to second. Gordon Beckham ranged to his left, but somehow the ball hopped over his glove.
Mike Aviles followed and struck out swinging, and when Giambi pinch-hit and flailed at the first pitch, things looked bleak. The Indians probably don’t expect to win 10 in a row to end the season, but they knew how damaging this loss could be.
“That’s a lot of emotions in a one-inning span,” Francona said. “Up, down, and up. That certainly means no sleep tonight. And that’s OK. But that would have been a really tough loss.”
“You lose that game you never know what’s going to happen,” Swisher said.
On an 0-1 pitch, Brantley stole second, and with the shortstop shifted to short right field, Giambi was thinking one thing: Score Brantley.
“I was just kind of looking saying, ‘Just hit a dribbler to short,’” Giambi said.
But after throwing backdoor sliders away, Reed threw one inside and Giambi pounced like the veteran he is.
“I just kind of reacted down and in,” he said. “Got the bat head to it. Like I said, I’m speechless. The way the season has gone, to be in that opportunity, man I really am.
“God, there’s nothing more special. It keeps you coming back every year.”
The home run was Giambi’s second walkoff this season and his third pinch-hit home run. He’s hit 438 in his career, but he called this one the high point.
“Right now it’s top of the world,” he said. “I don’t think I ever touched the ground running around the bases. They might have been able to appeal because I don’t think I touched any of them.”
Giambi, 42, has filled a vital role all season. He’s the team’s emotional and veteran leader, the guy who has returned the focus when things seemed to be heading south. He became the oldest player to hit a walkoff home run earlier this season, then did the same again on Tuesday.
“Boy did he hit that ball,” Francona said. “Wow.”
That it was Giambi was significant. That it was Giambi with the playoffs on the line increased the significance exponentially. The anger and frustration with Perez turned into elation and admiration for Giambi.
“(There’s) no time to hang your head right now,” Francona said. “You gotta keep fighting and we did.”
Francona said Perez will remain the team’s closer, but that’s a decision that can always change. He has a 5.95 ERA since Aug. 3, and has given up a league-high seven home runs in save situations. Giambi said he sought Perez out after the celebration to give him a hug.
“He was a little down,” Giambi said.
Cut through the emotions of the night, and the win was vital because Tampa Bay and Texas both won. Because Giambi’s blast landed well back in the right field seats, the Indians remain in the second wild card spot, one game behind Tampa, one ahead of Texas.
But this night was about emotions, because the graybeard of the team provided a moment that will not soon be forgotten.
“I almost started crying when he hit that ball, man,” Swisher said.
“I was laughing for a good 15 or 20 minutes,” said Jason Kipnis. “Out loud and to myself.”
Francona said it’s moments like those that keep him focusing on each night because the results are so unpredictable. In baseball, a team has to get 27 outs to win; Chicago got 26.
“Enjoy the ride, the journey, man,” Francona said. “One minute it’s gut wrenching. The next it’s everybody mobbing ‘G.’
“That’s why this is so gratifying, for moments like that.”
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