Jordan Luplow — I repeat, JORDAN LUPLOW, owner of a .190/.325/.317 slash line — homered on a 3-0 pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning to send the Chicago White Sox to their third straight loss and close the Cleveland Indians’ gap in the AL Central with a 3-2 victory.
I mean, look at the final pitch from Gio González:
That was a 90 mph fastball with an xBA of .950. Good grief, sir.
It delivered the Indians’ second consecutive walkoff win, the first time the club has accomplished that feat since the Tribe did so against the Mariners on Aug. 23/24 in 2002.
That bat flip though:
Flippin' out.#OurTribe | #WWWWindians pic.twitter.com/a09ShQ7si9— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) September 24, 2020
Shane Bieber, making his final regular season start, only lasted five innings against Chicago, matching his shortest outing of the season. He walked three batters, but only allowed two hits and one unearned run, striking out 10. The White Sox took a patient approach at the plate, sitting on his breaking pitches and attacking his fastball. They succeeded in driving up his pitch count, but only broke through for a run in the fourth inning after José Abreu reached on an error by José Ramírez. Eloy Jiménez followed with a double to put runners on second and third with no outs, and Abreu scored to tie the game on an Edwin Encarnacion groundout.
Bieber wrapped up his American League Cy Young campaign with a 1.63 season ERA and 122 strikeouts over 77.1 innings. I’d say that is good enough to get it done.
As expected, Bieber was in for a pitcher’s duel with White Sox ace Lucas Giolito, who has flummoxed the Tribe with his diabolical change-up for two seasons now. And he had his usual success, racking up 11 strikeouts and limiting Indians to four hits and two runs, though he did deal out three free passes. Early on, the lone blemish to his name was a solo home run on a fastball to Carlos Santana in the second inning for a 1-0 Cleveland lead.
White Sox manager Rick Renteria took a page out of Sandy Alomar Jr.’s playbook and decided to allow Giolito to rack up a career-high 119 pitches in his final start before the postseason. The Indians worked him for 24 pitches alone in the sixth inning, thanks in large part to an eight-pitch one-out walk to José Ramírez that set the table for the Tribe to re-take the lead. Carlos Santana followed with a slow roller (55.2 mph exit velocity) into left field against the shift, allowing Ramírez to go from first to third and for Santana to pull up at second. Franmil Reyes then delivered a sac fly to deep center to bring home Ramírez for the go-ahead run.
Alas, James Karinchak blew it in the eighth, surrendering a leadoff triple to Yoan Moncada and then a sac fly to José Abreu to knot the score at 2-2. It was the kind of sloppy defensive inning that seems to have become commonplace for the Indians, as Tyler Naquin struggled to corral Moncada’s liner into the right field corner and César Hernández later airmailed an easy throw to first on a groundball from Edwin Encarnación. Roberto Pérez also took a beating Wednesday night, throwing his body around to block balls in the dirt from Bieber and Karinchak.
Triston McKenzie made his first relief appearance of the season, bridging the gap between Bieber and Karinchak with two scoreless innings of work. Brad Hand appeared in the ninth inning in a rare non-save situation and set the stage for Luplow’s heroics with a clean outing.