By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
Are the 2013 Indians a team of destiny? At times it seems that way, and it certainly did on Tuesday night.
With the team down to its last out, its grizzled veteran, Jason Giambi, blasted a two-run pinch-hit homer deep into the right-field seats off closer Addison Reed, giving the Tribe a huge 5-4 win.
Giambi’s heroics countered the misadventures of Cleveland closer Chris Perez, who entered the ninth inning with a 3-2 advantage but gave up solo home runs to Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza with no outs and two outs respectively.
Brantley, who had batted in two runs earlier, reached first base with one out in the bottom of the ninth with a ground ball to right that just got past second baseman Gordon Beckham. One out later, he stole second uncontested, as the count went to 1-1 on Giambi. The slugger nailed a slider far over the fence and just to the left of the Chicago bullpen on the next pitch.
Giambi, knowing where the ball was headed, took a look at it and flipped the bat away before circling the bases.
The 42-year-old Giambi batted for Matt Carson, who had come in as a defensive replacement earlier in the inning and was batting in the leadoff spot, replacing Michael Bourn. Bourn injured his wrist sliding into second base, but manager Terry Francona hoped he would be available today.
“I think I have a man-crush on G,” Francona said with a smile. “That was pretty awesome.”
“Wow,” Giambi said. “It’s the stuff you dream about. Coming down the stretch, trying to get a playoff berth, it doesn’t get any bigger than that. I’m speechless. I really am.”
“Enjoy the ride — the journey,” Francona said. “Man, it’s fun. One minute it’s gut-wrenching; the next everybody’s mobbing G.”
Giambi’s pinch-hit homer was his third of the year, tying a team record. He beat his own record, set earlier this season, of being the oldest player to hit a walkoff home run.
Bryan Shaw (6-3) got the last out of the ninth for the save. He relieved Marc Rzepczynski shortly after Perez was removed to a loud chorus of boos from the home crowd of 21,083.
Reed is 5-4.
Cleveland (87-70) maintains its hold on the second AL wild card spot. It still trails Tampa Bay, which holds the first wild card position, by one game, and was ahead of Texas by 11⁄2 games pending the outcome of its game, Kansas City tentatively by 31⁄2 and New York by five.
Viciedo’s drive was an opposite-field shot to right, and came on a 1-1 count to lead off the inning. Perez fanned the next two batters before De Aza jumped on the next pitch and sent it into the right-field stands, just out of the reach of a leaping Carson.
Perez gave up a hit to Alexei Ramirez before being removed.
“I just thought he left a couple pitches that were over the middle of the plate,” Francona, who related that Perez remains the closer, said.
The win was the 13th-consecutive one by the Tribe over the White Sox (62-95), and it now leads the season series 16-2. Coming on the tail of the four-game sweep of Houston, it marked its fifth win in a row.
Ubaldo Jimenez pitched well again in a no-decision. The right-hander worked into the seventh inning, leaving with runners on first and second and one out with the score tied at one. Alejandro De Aza immediately untied it with an RBI single to left off Cody Allen.
“I thought (Jimenez’s) second time through the order, he wasn’t quite as crisp as he’s been,” Francona said. “But to his credit, he’s been a good pitcher. And there’s not a lot on the scoreboard to show for it when he leaves the game.”
However, the Indians bounced right back to take a 3-2 lead. Brantley (3 hits) tied it by blasting Hector Santiago’s first pitch of the stanza 410 feet to right field. Mike Aviles followed with a bloop hit to left, and Bourn sacrificed him to second.
Santiago was removed in favor of Nate Jones, who retired Nick Swisher on a fly to deep center with Aviles taking third. But Jason Kipnis came through with a line single to left-center to provide a 3-2 lead.
Joe Smith retired the side in order in the eighth.
Brantley put the Indians on the board first with a bloop hit to center, scoring Asdrubal Cabrera in the second.
The White Sox tied it in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Avisail Garcia.
Conor Gillaspie doubled off the right-field wall to lead off the Chicago fourth, but Jimenez set down the next three batters.
The Tribe returned the favor in the bottom of the same frame when Carlos Santana lined a double to left to start, but Santiago got out of it.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.