As he trotted around the bases in what had to be one of the most vindicating and fun moments of his long Major League Career, Giambi’s teammates waited for him at home plate like a group of giddy fraternity brothers. You could see the joy in their faces from a mile away. It was tough to tell who the moment meant more to – the players awaiting his arrival or Giambi himself.
“Big G means so much to the ballclub, on and off the field,” Swisher said. “That’s why, when he does what he just did, the party’s off the charts.”
And what a party it was as he crossed home plate. Giambi stepped up in a tie ball game to pinch hit for Mark Reynolds in the bottom of the ninth. Chicago’s Ramon Troncoso had faced Giambi once before and was taken deep. This time, the solo blast to center—a 424-foot shot—sent everybody home happy, including yours truly. The 42-year old was mobbed by his teammates and seemed to get a hug from everyone on the team, highlighted by his manager, Terry Francona, who received a giant pick up bear hug from one of his all time favorites. Nick Swisher and Mike Aviles then doused Big G with a cold water shower during his postgame interview.
“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.”
Check out the video here – there are three calls – STO’s Matt Underwood is first, Hamilton’s next, and then Sox play-by-play and all-time homer Hawk Harrelson’s come last. Watch the celebrations over and over. Being a Major League Baseball player does not suck.
The walkoff blast ended a pitchers duel between Chicago’s John Danks and the Tribe’s Zach McAllister that featured more shoddy defense. Z Mac was making his second start since coming off of the disabled list with the finger issue and looked like he had regained his old form. He pounded the strike zone all night, putting up zeroes through the first five innings. Danks was matching him, giving up just two hits through six innings, but thanks to two horrific second inning defensive plays by third baseman Conor Gillaspie, the Tribe had runners on second and third with nobody out. After his throwing error on an Asdrubal Cabrera ground out, Ryan Raburn hit a grounder towards Gillaspie at third which he should have scooped. The ball took a strange hop on him but he still should have made the play. Raburn was given a gift double. Cabrera would score on Carlos Santana’s sac fly.
McAllister’s only real problems came in the sixth while holding that one run lead. With two out, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn both doubled, and Paul Konerko’s RBI single to put the Sox on top 2-1. It was far from shocking that Konerko came up with a big hit. The guy should change his name to Larry Dolan because he owns the Tribe. The two runs ended a scoreless string of 25 consecutive innings by Indians pitching.
The good news for Zach was that the offense came right back to tie things in the bottom half of the frame. The inning should have been much bigger though. Danks had been cruising and inexplicably walked both Michael Bourn and Swisher with nobody out on nine pitches. Jason Kipnis then put down a perfectly placed bunt single to load the bases. The Tribe looked like they were in business for a big inning, but they were only able to scratch across one run on Cabrera’s RBI groundout. Cabrera would have been safe if he was running hard the whole way. It was a double play ball off the bat, but the flip from shortstop Alexei Ramirez was high and slow and pulled second baseman Gordon Beckham off the bag. The relay throw barely beat Asdrubal. It was one of two times he was not running hard out of the box – a subject that MUST be addressed. Cabrera has dogged it down the line way too often for my taste.
The rally would die right there as Raburn grounded out to Danks and Santana grounded out to short.
McAllister retired the Sox in order in the seventh, departing after 90 pitches, giving up two runs on five hits.
“I felt confident in the finger again, confident in my stuff,” McAllister said. “It was nice to have gotten the first start out of the way. This was another step in the right direction.’
We would stay tied into the ninth, thanks to a scoreless eighth from Cody Allen and Rich Hill. Hill came on with two out and struck out lefty Adam Dunn with the lead run on second. Ramirez should have never been there to begin with as Allen’s error put him on first and a terrible blown call on a steal attempt moved him into scoring position. Santana’s throw easily beat Ramirez to second and Kipnis applied the tag, yet somehow umpire D.J. Reyburn missed the call.
“I don’t think (Ramirez) was safe,” Francona said. “That would have been a tough one to take. I probably would have gotten thrown out during the next pitching change.”
Chris Perez came on in the ninth and got out unscathed thanks to a terrific running catch with two outs by Michael Brantley in left. That set the stage for Giambi’s heroics. At 42, Jason is now the oldest player in baseball history to hit a walkoff home run.
The win was the Tribe’s fifth straight and with the Tigers having a night off, they moved to within two and a half games of first place. In addition, they are only a half game out of the second wild card spot. This team isn’t going anywhere, especially with the way the starting pitching is going.
“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.”
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)