CLEVELAND -- The Indians’ quiet offense has been the subject of conversation a countless number of times this year. But the way the team has been able to celebrate over the past two nights is something the organization hasn’t experienced in 18 years.
With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, Jordan Luplow launched a 3-0 heater from Gio González into the left-field bleachers to lift the Tribe to a 3-2 victory over the White Sox on Wednesday night at Progressive Field. After José Ramírez blasted a three-run homer in the 10th inning on Tuesday, it marked the first time the Indians won on consecutive walk-off home runs since Aug. 23-24, 2002, against Seattle.
“Can we score more runs? It would be easier,” acting Indians manager Sandy Alomar Jr. joked of Wednesday's anxiety-filled ending.
When the count reached 3-0, Luplow had no intentions of keeping the bat on his shoulder, as long as it was a decent pitch to hit. And when he saw a juicy 90.7 mph four-seamer over the middle of the plate, he didn’t hesitate.
“[My approach there is the] same thing as any other advantage count,” Luplow said. “As long as you get a good pitch to hit and it's the right time of the game, go for it.”
It was a brief moment where Luplow could breathe a sigh of relief. The outfielder entered Wednesday night hitting .190 with a .642 OPS in 24 games. But maybe the White Sox can once again be his turning point; in 2019, he batted .233 with a .643 OPS and no home runs through his first 14 games before a two-homer game against Chicago. After that night, he went on to hit .282 with a .966 OPS in his final 71 games.
If that’s the case, Luplow’s big blast couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, as the Tribe prepares for Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series on Tuesday. The victory moved the Indians to two games behind the White Sox and 2 1/2 behind the first-place Twins in the AL Central.
“It's nice, just because of all the stuff we've been through and [Terry Francona] being gone and this weird year,” Luplow said of the team’s 6-1 run over the past week. “It's special to us. We always had each other's backs this whole year and behind our pitching staff, the offense is starting to pick up. It's fun.”
Now, the team will look for a four-game sweep of the White Sox on Thursday, which would put them just one game back of second place in the division. With a three-game series against the Pirates to close out the regular season, the Indians are tight on time to move out of their current AL Wild Card spot, but it’s not impossible. If the team moves up, it would have a chance to host the first round of the playoffs at Progressive Field. And if the Indians tie the White Sox for second place, the tiebreaker for their head-to-head season record is in favor of Cleveland.
“It’s a lot of fun to be part of this team with these guys and to have gone through all that we’ve gone through and now do what we’re doing,” Indians starter Shane Bieber said. “I can say without a doubt we’re clicking in all facets of the game, in the clubhouse, and it’s just a lot of fun to be a part of.”