CLEVELAND — Pitching to Ryan Garko these days can be a risky prospect. The Chicago White Sox learned as much emphatically on Tuesday night.
Though Garko did not start the game, he wound up filling the hero role for the Indians once again in their latest comeback victory, a 6-5 decision over the Sox in 11 innings.
Garko, who has been one of Cleveland’s hottest hitters as of late, delivered again, tying the game with a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning, and then winning it with a single in the 11th.
He has been the Indians’ flavor of the month.
“It’s kind of the story of our whole season,” Garko said. “Twenty-five guys, somebody different every night.”
Garko’s homer extended his career-high hitting streak to 11 games, with the first baseman batting .450 (18-for-40) with three homers and nine RBIs over the span. He has driven in runs in each of his last five games, going deep three times in his last four games.
The victory, Cleveland’s third in five games and its major league-leading 28th comeback win, kept the Indians a game behind the Central Division-leading Tigers. Cleveland recorded 27 comeback wins all of last year.
Indians starter Paul Byrd appeared to be en route to a quality outing, shutting the Sox out on just a hit through the first four innings, retiring nine straight after striking out Jermaine Dye to end the opening inning with the bases loaded.
But Byrd’s bubble burst in the fifth after he made a nice play on a grounder back to the mound for the second out.
Byrd allowed the next four batters to reach base, with a two-run single from Jim Thome tying the game at two, and a double from Paul Konerko putting the Sox in front by a run.
Thome had a big night against his former team, going 3-for-6 with two RBIs and a double.
Dye’s 16th homer of the season in the sixth put the Sox up
4-2, with Byrd allowing four runs on six hits through six innings.
After winning four straight decisions to improve to 6-1 on May 30, Byrd has just one win in June and July, covering a span of eight starts.
The Indians got to Sox starter Jon Garland early, scoring twice off him in the opening inning, the first run coming on a double from Victor Martinez.
But Cleveland’s offense went dry quickly, as Garland didn’t allow another hit after the first until Grady Sizemore singled with one out in the fifth.
Because Garland threw so many pitches in the opening inning — 32 — he lasted just six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits.
Garko’s 12th homer of the season came off Sox closer Bobby Jenks, the leader of a crumbling Chicago bullpen that was posted an ERA above 7.00 over the last two months.
After Jason Michaels led off the 11th with a double to right, Garko hit a broken-bat bloop single over the head of shortstop Juan Uribe to score Michaels easily with the winning run.
“We got to who we wanted to get to,” said Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. “Unfortunately Bobby didn’t hold the lead.
“That’s exactly what a winning team does. We should have won the game but they battled every inning.”
The start of the game was delayed 25 minutes by rain.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Chicago
TIME: 12:05 p.m.
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Westbrook (1-4, 6.07) vs. Buerhle (6-5, 2.98)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
Cleveland Indians baserunner Ben Francisco is tagged out at home plate by Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski in the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s extra-inning thriller in Cleveland.