No one is confusing these Chicago White Sox with the 1927 Yankees, the '95 Indians, or even the 2005 chapter of the Pale Hose that won a World Champion, but Terry Francona and the Tribe will take 3 wins to open a 4 game series anytime they can get it. It has become par for the course in this series at US Cellular, but Saturday's 4-3 victory over their division rival was of the come-from-behind variety, like all of the others.
For the second straight game, it was Nick Swisher providing the final heroics, but the hot topic revolving around the Indians right now is Chicago native Jason Kipnis. The former Arizona State outfielder went two-for-three on Saturday to raise his average to .299 on the year. It was Kipnis's single up the middle that put Asdrubal Cabrera into scoring position for Swisher with the game tied in the eighth.
Swisher, who wore the black and white pinstripes of Chicago's south side club himself, came to the plate against Jesse Crain, hitting .400 lifetime against the late reliever in 12 plate appearances. The last time Swisher faced Crain, it was Crain walking off the field as Swisher and his teammates celebrated a 1-0 win on April 12th. The game winner was a ball Swisher pulled to right field. It was the same deal on Saturday, except the Tribe needed six outs from Joe Smith and Chris Perez.
With a one-run lead, Michael Brantley hit the ball well, but an outstanding jumping catch at second base by Gordon Beckham turned into the second and third outs of the eighth inning. Kipnis was doubled off second base, caught in no-man's land on a line drive that looked destined for the grass in right-center field. So, the score remained 4-3 in the middle of the eighth.
Every time the White Sox were able to get something going, the Indians would answer. Tribe starter Ubaldo Jimenez walked the tight rope in his no decision on Saturday, but kept the boat afloat for his bullpen and offense to stay in the game. The first time he took on too much water was in the second inning, when Chicago put him in a pickle with back-to-back singles to start the frame.
Jimenez got Gordon Beckham to hit a ground ball to short, but the Indians were only able to get one out on the play, setting the table for White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers to bat with runners on the corners and out out. Flower shot one beyond the reach of Lonnie Chisenhall at third base, and the ball went all the way to the wall, where Brantley did a good job running it down. Connor Gellaspie scored on the play, Dayan Viciedo was held at third, keeping it 1-0 early.
That hustle would prove important, because Ubaldo got Alejandro De Aza to pop out, and struck out Alexei Ramirez to strike out to end the inning. Jimenez went high and tight on the Chicago shortstop with an 0-2 around Ramirez's head, then came back with a high fastball out of the zone that resulted in a swing and a miss. In all, Jimenez struck out 8, and ended four of the five innings he threw by way of the whiff.
The Indians evened the game at 1 on Cabrera's home run that just cleared the fence in right field, his sixth long ball of the season. In the 5th inning, cyberspace cited that Jimenez would turn into a pumpkin, and it was difficult to deny on Saturday afternoon.
With one out, Alex Rios knocked a single to left field, then stole second and advanced to third on an Adam Dunn ground out to the right side. He walked Jeff Keppinger, but couldn't retire Gillaspie, who gave the home team the lead on an infield single to shortstop. Viciedo hti the ball a little harder, but with the same result, and the White Sox went up 3-1. Ublado walked Beckham to load the bases, but struck out Flowers to end the inning and his day.
Kipnis quickly erased the deficit with a shot to right field in the top of the sixth inning, tying the game at 3. In the bottom of the inning, the 30 year-old minor league journeyman Joe Martinez made his Indians debut. Despite a lead-off single by De Aza, Martinez pitched well in his one inning of work, keeping the White Sox off the scoreboard. He even struck out Adam Dunn for his first Major League strikeout since getting Hunter Pence on April 25th, 2012.
Martinez was acquired via free agency in the off-season after spending 2012 with Arizona. He worked a scoreless seventh, pitching around Viciedo's 2-out double. That sent the game to the eighth with Martinez in line for his first big league win since 2009. Thanks to Swisher, he got it.
Joe Smith pitched a perfect bottom of the eighth, and Chris Perez followed suit in the ninth for his seventh save of the year. It was the Tribe closer's first save since May 11th. The win guarantees the 2nd place Indians will trail the division leading Tigers by no more than 2 games, entering tomorrow's action. The Tribe and White Sox will go at it one more time on Sunday, in a battle of the aces, between Justin Masterson and Chris Sale. First pitch is at 2:10 ET.