For fans of the Cleveland Indians, those may be the five sweetest words in the English language. They certainly are tonight, as Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton got to use his signature home run call in the bottom of the ninth inning when Jason Giambi hit a 1-1 pitch for a 409-foot, two-run, walk-off homer, giving the Indians a 5-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Giambi, who is at age 42 by far the oldest player on the team, now has three pinch-hit home runs on the season. This was his second walk-off home run this year, and it couldn’t possibly have come at a better time. The Indians had entered the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead, only to see it vanish when closer Chris Perez gave up a game-tying home run to Dayan Viciedo. Later in the inning, with two out, Perez gave up another home run to Alejandro de Aza, giving the White Sox a 4-3 lead. After Perez gave up a single to the next batter, Indians manager Terry Francona replaced him with Marc Rzepczynski, Perez was booed as he walked back to the dugout. After Rzepczynski hit the only batter he faced with a pitch, he too was removed in favor of Bryan Shaw, who recorded the final out of the inning on three pitches (and thus, Joe Posnanski, getting credit for the win).
But the Indians weren’t going to let Chris Perez cost them THIS ballgame. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Michael Brantley singled to right. After Mike Aviles struck out, Jason Giambi came out to pinch-hit for Matt Carson, and, well, you know the rest.
Ubaldo Jimenez started the game for the Indians, and he pitched very well, giving up two runs over 6 1/3 innings. In 28 1/3 innings in September, Jimenez’s ERA for the month is 1.27, which I think we can all agree is pretty darn good.
The Indians have now won five games in a row, with five left to play. Unfortunately, their main rivals for one of the two AL wild-card slots, the Rays and the Rangers, both won tonight as well, which means the Indians neither gained nor lost any ground in the wild card race. But they are still one game ahead of the Rangers for the second wild-card slot, and according to ESPN, they have an 82.8% chance of making it to the postseason (this will go up VERY slightly, perhaps to 83%, if the Royals lose tonight).
I like those odds, I really do. But I am worried about the Chris Perez situation. In the postgame press conference, Francona said he wouldn’t hesitate to give the ball to Perez in a save situation the next time one comes up. Francona has done a masterful job of managing the team this year, and he obviously knows more about his team and his players than you or I do. But I would MUCH rather see Joe Smith (who pitched a scoreless eighth inning) as the closer now than Perez.
The Indians play their last home game of the regular season on Wednesday against the Sox. I’ll be sitting in Row U of the bleachers with my friend Wyatt. Look for us. We’ll be wearing Indians caps.
Update: Thanks to commenter Gvl Steve for pointing out a mistake I made, which I’ve now corrected. I genuinely appreciate your calling it to my attention.