Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Indians narrowly avoid a costly lesson

tribe giambi homerWith a season that spans six months and 162 games, baseball is truly a marathon rather than a sprint.

And while wins in April count as much as wins in September, the same can not always be said of losses – especially for a team in a race for the playoffs. A loss in September can leave a team scrambling as, with the number of remaining games dwindling, there is more of an urgency – and fewer opportunities – to get back on track.

That is a lesson that Cleveland Indians avoided learning Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox.

The Tribe was saved by Jason Giambi’s pinch-hit two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the Indians the win and erase the mistakes of closer Chris Perez, who gave up the lead in the top of the inning on solo home runs by Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza.

During the top of the ninth we started having flashbacks to 2005, when on the Sunday of the final week of the season the Indians seemed to be headed to the playoffs. But Grady Sizemore lost a fly ball in the sun that afternoon in Kansas City, starting a chain of events that saw the Tribe lose six-of-seven to close out the season and miss the playoffs by one game.

But with one swing of the bat, Giambi quieted those fears (at least for one night).

Giambi’s homer was the 10th walk-off of his career and the second this season. It was also the Tribe’s 11th walk-off win this year from nine different players.

“I’ve said this before, but this is the ultimate team I’ve ever played on,” Giambi said after the game. “It’s unbelievable how many people have helped us win games this season.”

The flipside of Giambi’s heroics was Perez’ performance in the ninth inning. We’re not looking to go overboard on Perez, no closer is perfect, but his recent string of performances has to be a concern for the Tribe.

On the season, Perez has 25 saves in 30 opportunities and a 3.71 ERA. But as Jordan Bastian pointed out on Twitter, in his last 20 appearances, Perez has posted an ERA of 5.95, has given up six home runs and opposing hitters are batting .321 against him.

Hopefully Perez can settle down because the Tribe is going to need him.

“He’s important,” second baseman Jason Kipnis told the team’s website. “He’s important for the reason you saw tonight. It would’ve been nice for him to lock it down and close out a 4-3 game, but you know what? Welcome to baseball. Stuff’s going to happen like that. It’s not always going to go as numbers suggest. We picked him up tonight and we’re hoping he’s going to pick us up down the road.”

The Tribe currently sits in the second Wild Card spot, a half-game behind Tampa Bay and a full game ahead of Texas. With five games left in the season, anything is possible.

As we saw Tuesday night, it’s not going to be easy for the Tribe this last week of the season. But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun, would it?

And if it was easy, it most certainly wouldn’t be Cleveland.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

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