CLEVELAND -- Jason Giambi needed just one swing in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday to undo the damage of two big Chicago White Sox swings in the top of the inning.
After Indians closer Chris Perez blew a one-run save opportunity by giving up solo home runs to Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza in the top of the ninth, the veteran Giambi blasted a two-run, pinch-hit home run to hand the Indians a stunning 5-4 walk-off victory.
The 405-foot blast marked Giambi's second pinch-hit walk-off homer of the season -- both against the White Sox , as the Tribe improved to 16-2 against them this season with six last-at bat wins among them.
Before Giambi stepped to the plate and saved the day, the Indians had put themselves in perfect position to further strengthen their bid for a wild-card berth into the playoffs after fighting back with two runs in the seventh inning.
But the embattled Perez couldn't protect a one-run lead, giving up hits to three of the five batters he faced -- including the two big solo shots -- to seemingly gift wrap a rare White Sox victory.
Perez's third pitch to Viciedo was launched 365 feet into the right-field seats, marking the blown save. Then after retiring the next two batters, Perez gave up another solo homer to De Aza -- the apparent insurance run feeling more like a dagger in the heart of the 21,083 fans in attendance.
Perez, whose seven home runs given up in save situations now lead all major league closers, remained in the game for one more batter. But when Alexei Ramirez reached base on a single to left, Indians manager Terry Francona finally made his way to the mound to relieve Perez as the fans rained hearty boos down on him.
All the late action seemed light years away from the start of the game as Tribe starter Ubaldo Jimenez proved once again that he's learned how to pitch out of jams without imploding.
Jimenez dealt right out of the gate Tuesday, with his three strikeouts over the first two innings all called. Jimenez, who entered the game with an American League leading 1.77 ERA in the second half of the season, went on to give the Indians a solid, 6 1/3-inning effort despite not factoring in the decision.
But unlike some of his more recent dominant outings, Jimenez didn't cruise through the White Sox order all evening.
After a fast start, Jimenez found himself in trouble in the fourth inning when he allowed the first two batters to reach safely. Last season, the same situation caused the right-hander so much stress, he was rarely able to recover from the jam.
But this season, the biggest reason for Jimenez's stunning turnaround has been his ability to limit damage, his biggest champion being Indians rookie pitching coach Mickey Callaway.
The Indians gave Jimenez a lead to work with when left fielder Michael Brantley put them on the board first in the second inning, his RBI-bloop single dropping in shallow center field to score shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera with two on and two out.
But Jimenez began to fight his command in the fourth inning, as the White Sox had three runners reach base on a lead-off walk and two hits. But with a little help by his new best friend Callaway, Jimenez was able to limit the damage to nothing more than a Viciedo sacrifice fly that knotted the score 1-1.
Jimenez rebounded to give the Indians 2 1/3 more innings before Francona finally felt it was time to go to the bullpen with two on and one out in the seventh inning. Reliever Cody Allen traded an out for a fielder's choice before giving up a Chicago go-ahead run (charged to Jimenez) when De Aza ripped a run-scoring single to give the White Sox a 2-1 advantage.
But the deficit didn't last long, as Brantley blasted a 410-foot, lead-off home run on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the seventh inning to re-tie the game 2-2.
Four batters later, Jason Kipnis rapped a two-out single to left field to score Mike Aviles, and put the Indians back on top 3-2.
But Kipnis ran the Tribe out of the inning when he was caught in a rundown between first and second base to end the threat.
(c)2013 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services