Chicago and White Sox fans didn’t like Nick Swisher before this weekend. They might hate him now.
After Swisher issued the crushing blow to a four-run comeback for the Indians in the wee hours of the morning last night, giving the Tribe a doubleheader sweep, he again had the decisive hit to push the Indians past the White Sox this afternoon by a score of 4-3. Swisher drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth inning to give the Tribe the lead and their third straight clutch, victory in Chicago.
Ubaldo Jimenez did not give an outstanding effort, but an acceptable one, after the Tribe bullpen was taxed for over 12 innings in yesterday’s twin bill. He survived five innings and avoided serious damage, giving the Tribe a chance to come back late.
Chicago jumped on top in the bottom of the second for a run when Connor Gillaspie and Dayan Viciedo started the inning with back-to-back singles. After Gordon Beckham grounded into a fielder’s choice, forcing Viciedo out at second base, Tyler Flowers doubled to left field to score Gillaspie and move Beckham to third. Jimenez settled down, with two runners in scoring position, and retired Alejandro De Aza and struck out Alexei Ramirez to keep the White Sox lead at just 1-0.
The Tribe quickly evened the score in the top of the fourth inning when Asdrubal Cabrera hit a leadoff solo home run to right field, tying the game at one a piece. His sixth homer landed just beyond the right field fence and in the Chicago bullpen.
Cleveland had a chance to take the lead in the top of the fifth inning when Carlos Santana hit a leadoff double to right field. He advanced to third on Jason Giambi’s ground out, but was stranded when Lonnie Chisenhall struck out and Drew Stubbs grounded out to end the inning.
The White Sox made the Tribe pay for their opportunity squandered and seemed to take control of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. With one out, Alex Rios singled to left field and stole second base with Adam Dunn at the plate. He grounded out to second base, moving Rios to third. After Jeff Keppinger walked, Gillaspie chopped an infield single to shortstop that Cabrera could not get him at first in time. Rios scored and Keppinger moved to second as the White Sox took a 2-1 lead. Viciedo followed with a single to center field, plating Keppinger and giving Chicago a 3-1 lead.
With runners on first and third, it seemed the wheels could quickly fall off the tracks for Jimenez and the Tribe. He walked Beckham to load the bases creating greater distress, but was able to buckle down and strike out Flowers on a slider to end the inning.
The avoided disaster ended Jimenez’s day after five innings, allowing nine hits and three runs, while walking four and striking out eight on 112 pitches. Like so many recent Jimenez starts, he did not pitch well enough to win, yet pitched well enough to not lose. Joe Martinez, fresh from Triple-A Columbus, took over in relief.
By the time Martinez could enter the game, he was the pitcher of record, because the Tribe finally cracked Dylan Axelrod, who had kept their offense quiet for five innings. Michael Bourn walked to start the top of the sixth inning and Chicago native Jason Kipnis homered to right field to tie the game at three. Kipnis’ 12th homer of the season was just the most recent blow in a red-hot weekend. He’s hitting .500 (20 for 40) in a 12-game hitting streak.
Both teams headed to the bullpen with Martinez pitching a clean sixth inning and Matt Thornton taking over for Axelrod in the top of the seventh inning. Axelrod pitched six innings, allowing five runs and three runs, while walking three and striking out three. The two home runs issued by Axelrod were the difference in the game.
After Thornton’s solid inning for Chicago and two quality frames from Martinez, Jesse Crain entered the game having only allowed one run since mid-April. With one out, Cabrera and Kipnis dropped looping singles over the infield to put runners on first and second base for Swisher. The former White Sox smacked a single to center field, scoring Cabrera and giving the Tribe a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish.
Joe Smith and Chris Perez worked their own three-up, three-down innings in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Perez worked an back-to-back days to earn his seventh save of the season, his first since being activated from the disabled list on Thursday. Martinez (1-0) picks up his first win of the season and first since 2009 in the big leagues. Crain (2-3) took the loss, allowing a run in one inning of work.
The win is Cleveland’s third straight and all in dramatic fashion. It pulls the Tribe to within a game and one-half of the Detroit Tigers, who have just started their game at 7 p.m. ET.
Photo: David Banks/Getty Images