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.
The Indians had taken a 3-2 lead in the seventh on All-Star Jason Kipnis' two-out RBI single and Michael Brantley's leadoff homer.
With the Indians trailing by a run, and a scoreboard-watching crowd of 21,083 inside chilly Progressive Field getting nervous, Brantley tied it 2-2 with his 10th homer.
Brantley pulled the first pitch from Santiago into the right-field seats, making him 13 of 29 (.448) with two homers and seven RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak.
Mike Aviles followed with a single and Michael Bourn sacrificed before White Sox manager Robin Ventura pulled starter Hector Santiago. Nick Swisher's fly ball to deep center sent Aviles to third and Kipnis, named to his first All-Star squad earlier this season, delivered his clutch hit, punctuating the single by flipping his bat in the direction of Chicago's dugout.
Chicago had taken a 2-1 lead in the seventh on De Aza's RBI single off Cody Allen, who inherited a two-on, one-out jam from starter Ubaldo Jimenez.
Cleveland's starter, who came in with a 1.77 ERA in the second half, gave up a one-out single to Gordon Beckham before walking No. 9 hitter Josh Phegley. Francona came out and took the ball from Jimenez, who received a standing ovation as he left the field. He allowed two runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings.
Jimenez was in significant trouble in the fourth, when the White Sox tied it 1-1 on Avisail Garcia's sacrifice fly. Chicago threatened to score more when Viciedo doubled with two outs, sending Paul Konerko to third. But with two runners in scoring position, Jimenez retired Beckham on an easy grounder.
Jimenez dodged another jam in the sixth. Conor Gillaspie led off with a double, but Jimenez retired Konerko on a grounder, struck Adam Dunn for the third time and got Garcia to bounce out.
Brantley's RBI blooper to center gave the Indians a 1-0 lead in the second.
NOTES: Konerko fouled a pitch off his leg in the eighth, struck out and was pulled from the game. ... Indians All-Star RHP Justin Masterson could pitch in relief as early as Wednesday when he returns from a strained left oblique. Francona said Masterson, out since Sept. 2, will join Cleveland's bullpen for the final week. It's unlikely the team leader in wins, innings and strikeouts, will start again this season unless the Indians make the playoffs and play deep into October. ... White Sox INF Jeff Keppinger will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery Thursday. He's had soreness since spring training and decided to have the procedure now with the hope he'll be ready for spring training. ... Dunn struck out four times, dropping him to .119 (7 for 59) in September.