September 20, 2014

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Jason Giambi proves excellent in a pinch, leads Indians past White Sox and to fifth straight win with walk-off home run

CLEVELAND — Just about the time it appears Jason Giambi should turn the page and call it a career, he does something like he did Monday night at Progressive Field.

Scuffling at the plate and with few opportunities over the past two months, Giambi came through when the Indians needed him most, clouting a pinch-hit solo walk-off home run in the ninth inning that pushed Cleveland past the White Sox, 3-2.

“There’s nothing more special in this game than to do that,” Giambi said of his towering game-winning shot over the bushes beyond the fence in right-center off Chicago reliever Ramon Troncoso. “It’s incredible just to contribute. I’ve been preaching all year that one guy is no more important than any other one. It’s going to take all 25.”

A big blast from one of their biggest leaders touched off a raucous celebration for the Indians, who mobbed the 42-year-old at home plate, with Nick Swisher and Mike Aviles dumping water on Giambi as he performed a postgame television interview following Cleveland’s fifth straight win.

“Just in general, he’s such a big part of this team,” Swisher said of Giambi, who is the oldest player ever to hit a walk-off homer, surpassing Hank Aaron. “Anytime a guy like that is successful, the atmosphere is off the charts. The guy is still built like a Greek god and he can still hit the ball a long way. It was electric. It was orgasmic.

“That was a great game for us. We were a little lax, but to be able to still pull off the win, that’s all we care about.”

The Indians won for the 10th time in 14 games and gained a half game on first-place Detroit, which was idle. They trail the Tigers by 2½ games in the Central Division standings.

It was the eighth walk-off win of the year for Cleveland, which has hit 68 walk-off homers since Jacobs/Progressive Field opened in 1994 — the most in the majors over the span.

And it couldn’t have come from a better source, as far as Indians manager Terry Francona — a big Giambi supporter — was concerned. Giambi lifted Francona off the ground with a bear hug during the victory celebration.

“You look at his run production for at-bats, it’s tremendous,” Francona said. “What he does before he steps in the batter’s box, you can’t put a price on it. You can write whatever you want good and you can fill up a book. I keep trying to say how I feel about him, and I just don’t feel like I ever quite get there. That’s how valuable I think he is.”

Right-hander Zach McAllister was valuable for the Indians in his second start back from the disabled list, allowing just two runs on five hits over seven innings. He was deprived of the decision thanks to a quality outing from White Sox starter John Danks, who surrendered two runs on just two hits over six innings.

The Indians scored once in the second inning on a sacrifice fly from Carlos Santana, but went just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

McAllister shut out Chicago on just two hits over the first five innings before the Sox took the lead with two runs in the sixth. He pitched a scoreless seventh before turning it over to the bullpen.

“I thought he battled,” Francona said of McAllister, who struck out two and walked one.

Closer Chris Perez continued his effective stretch, getting the win after pitching a scoreless ninth to set the stage for Giambi’s heroics. Perez has allowed just one earned run over 14 appearances since leaving the injured list.

The Indians are on a bit of a roll at the right time in the season. They won their eighth straight game at home and are just three wins away from matching their entire home win total from last year.

“I love how we’re growing,” said Giambi, who has nine career walk-off homers. “We’re going to keep learning and learning and getting better. It’s exciting how it’s all coming together.”

The two runs McAllister (4-6, 3.48 ERA) allowed in the sixth snapped a streak of 26 consecutive scoreless innings for Cleveland pitchers.

The White Sox lost their fourth straight and are 16-39 over their last 55 games, which accounts for the majors’ worst record over the span.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.

TONIGHT

WHO: Cleveland vs. Chicago White Sox
TIME: 7:05
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Kazmir (6-4, 3.96 ERA) vs. Peavy (8-4, 4.28)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM