Jason Giambi still had the chills long after he shook Progressive Field.
Giambi hit a pinch-hit home run leading off the ninth inning, a towering shot over the center field wall that sent the Cleveland Indians to their fifth straight win, 3-2 over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.
Batting for Mark Reynolds, Giambi belted a 1-1 pitch from Ramon Troncoso (1-3) into the bushes beyond the fence. It was the 436th career homer and ninth career walk-off shot for the popular 42-year-old slugger, who had a bucket of ice water dumped over his head by teammates.
”I might catch pneumonia,” he joked. ”I’m a little old to be dunked with water. I love it. I’ve been preaching all year one guy is not more important than another and it’s going to take all 25 of us, even more than that, to win ballgames and we’ve done it all year. It’s just exciting to be a part of it.”
According to STATS, Giambi is the oldest player in major league history to hit a walk-off homer, surpassing Hank Aaron, who was 42 days younger than Giambi when he did it in 1976.
Closer Chris Perez (3-1) pitched the ninth, allowing a two-out triple to Dayan Viciedo but stranded the go-ahead run when left fielder Michael Brantley made a sensational, running catch for the third out.
With their 10th win in 14 games, the Indians moved within 2 1-2 games of the idle Detroit Tigers for first place in the AL Central.
The sinking White Sox have lost four straight and 10 of 13.
Giambi’s dramatic shot – and postgame bath – provided more memorable snapshots for the Indians, who are making a strong push as August approaches. Cleveland is keeping the pressure on the Tigers as well as injecting themselves into the wild-card discussion.
As he rounded third, Giambi smiled when he saw his teammates awaiting his arrival at the plate. He leaped into their welcome-home party and nearly had his jersey pulled off in the celebration.
”That’s what keeps you coming back,” Giambi said. ”There’s no moment more special than when you get that embrace from your teammates and all those smiles. It’s exciting.”
The well-respected Giambi has been instrumental in bringing the Indians together and they are clicking at just the right time.
”I love how we’re growing and that’s what I keep telling them, we’re growing and we’re going to keep learning and learning and getting better and better,” Giambi said. ”Even in the down times we were learning. It’s exciting how it’s all coming together.”
Perez got the first two outs in the ninth before Viciedo hit a sinking liner that skipped past right fielder Ryan Rabun and rolled all the way to the wall. Center fielder Michael Bourn hustled over threw it quickly to the infield, preventing Viciedo from trying for an inside-the-park homer.
Gordon Beckham followed with a line drive to left that Brantley casually ran down and snared with an overhead catch to keep it tied 2-all. When he got back to the dugout, Brantley was greeted by several of his teammates and a thankful Perez.
”I thought it was off the wall,” said Perez, who patted his heart as he walked to the dugout.
The Indians got another strong outing from a starter as Zach McAllister allowed just two runs and five hits in seven innings. Cleveland’s starters came in with a 1.79 ERA in the past 16 games.
The White Sox fell 23 games below .500 for the first time since 2007.
With the trading deadline approaching Wednesday at 4 p.m., the last-place team may make some deals.
Before the game, they sent reliever Jesse Crain to Tampa Bay for future considerations. Chicago is also believed to be dangling Jake Peavy, who is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game.
”You’ve got to be able to get through it,” manager Robin Ventura said. ”It will be better in a couple of days because it will be over. It’s stuff you have to deal with every year. It’s different this year because they’re not in the who-we’re-going-to-get stage.”
The Indians’ streak of 26 consecutive scoreless innings ended in the sixth.
Blanked by McAllister for the first five innings, the White Sox scored twice with two outs on Adam Dunn’s RBI double and Paul Konerko’s run-scoring single.
It was the first run given up by the Indians since the eighth inning on Friday. Cleveland posted consecutive shutouts over the weekend against Texas, and lead the majors with 14 shutouts.
Held to one hit by John Danks over the first five innings, the Indians tied it in the sixth on Asdrubal Cabrera’s RBI groundout.
As has been the case during their recent surge, the Indians grabbed an early lead.
They went ahead in the second on Carlos Santana’s sacrifice fly, the 16th straight game Cleveland has scored first – a new franchise record. The Indians scored first in 15 games in a row in 1906, and Cleveland’s current streak is the majors’ longest since Milwaukee did it 21 consecutive times in 1990.
Notes: Indians manager Terry Francona received a text from Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia, who was sitting near the dugout phone David Ortiz destroyed with his bat in Baltimore. ”None of the words were printable,” said Francona, who remains close with his former player. When Francona managed in Boston he said Ortiz rarely got that mad, but ”when he goes …” One time, Francona was trying to calm ”Big Papi” down and Ortiz stepped on his foot and broke his toenail. ”I wanted to kill him,” Francona said. … Cleveland’s scoreless streak was the club’s longest since 2000.