Alexei's walk-off homer ends wet and wild affair
White Sox top Tribe in game with four lead changes, two rain delays
CHICAGO -- A long red scratch on the left side of Alexei Ramirez's forehead was visible during his media session following the White Sox 4-3 victory over the Indians on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Ramirez certainly wasn't complaining or feeling any pain, for that matter. Call it a welcomed battle scar.
Ramirez's walk-off home run against Cleveland closer John Axford (0-1), coming with one out and Jordan Danks on second, turned a potential heartbreaking loss into an uplifting victory and sent the shortstop into a helmet-slapping, frenzied celebration as he crossed home plate. The White Sox (7-6) claimed a series victory from the Indians by taking three of four contests.
This Cleveland team beat the White Sox in 17 of 19 games last year while enjoying walk-off long ball moments of its own from Jason Giambi and Carlos Santana. So in the mind of White Sox manager Robin Ventura, his crew had definitely earned this moment.
"Last year, they probably won it just like that, you know, that team. It's nice for us to be able to do this," Ventura said. "The feeling is even though you're down, you feel like you can come back. That's a very good feeling to have, offensively."
"You could tell there's a good environment there. Everybody is pulling for each other," said Ramirez through translator and White Sox manager of cultural development Lino Diaz. "Hitters are doing the job. We felt like we could come back."
Trailing by one run after Cleveland rallied for two in the top of the ninth against closer Matt Lindstrom (1-1), Danks fought back from a 1-2 hole and drew a six-pitch walk to lead off against Axford. He swiped second but didn't have to run nearly as hard when Ramirez cleared the left-field fence on Axford's first pitch.
"It was the call," said Axford of the 93-mph fastball turned around by Ramirez. "Throw a fastball in, and I just left it up there and he cleared out and got a good piece of it."
"Everybody knows me as an aggressive hitter," said Ramirez, who extended his season-opening hitting streak to 13 games with a third-inning single. "I'm going to go looking for a good pitch to hit, and when I get it, I'm going to swing at it. That's what happened. I got a good pitch. He's a really good pitcher and he just left me a pitch up there, and I was able to put a good swing on it."
While Ramirez was the hero with the bat, Jose Quintana definitely gets the nod on the mound for the White Sox. The southpaw threw a career-high 121 pitches while working around a pair of rain delays, the second of which lasted 45 minutes. But even after all of that quality work, Quintana finished with yet another no-decision.
Quintana allowed one run on five hits over six innings, striking out six and walking two. Michael Brantley's home run in the fourth, coming before the second wave of rain, stood as the only run allowed by Quintana.
Jason Kipnis doubled to open the sixth and stayed at second when Conor Gillaspie made a diving stop down the third-base line on Santana's hard-hit grounder to hold Santana to a single. Ryan Raburn's long flyout to center moved Kipnis to third, but he had to hold there when Quintana not only knocked down Brantley's hot shot but had the presence of mind to get the force at second on Santana.
Yan Gomes struck out for the third time to end the frame, with the usually sedate Quintana letting out a scream of emotion over the escape.
"That inning started with a double," Quintana said. "I want to throw a good pitch in a good spot, and when I yelled [after] the strikeout, I was really happy with that."
"He battled, even with the rain delay and having to go back out there," said Ventura of Quintana. "He had a lot of pitches today. It didn't necessarily seem that way, just because it seemed like he was in control the whole time."
A fourth-inning infield single from Dayan Viciedo scored Gillaspie with the White Sox first run off of Cleveland starter Corey Kluber. Gillaspie extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games.
Marcus Semien homered with one out in the eighth to give the White Sox a 2-1 lead that looked like it would provide the margin of victory. Semien's blast also came off of Kluber, who matched Quintana by yielding just two runs over 7 1/3 innings and 97 pitches, while striking out six.
Kluber was still in line to take the loss until Lindstrom blew his second save in three tries, with two unearned Cleveland runs coming home in the ninth, sparked by Jose Abreu's inning-opening error on Brantley's grounder and capped by Lindstrom's wild pitch that plated a go-ahead run.
The game was delayed for one hour and 15 minutes due to the threat of rain before the first pitch, but the conditions were relatively dry until the fourth. Dry, but cold, as the temperature dipped from a comfortable 68 degrees in the morning to 48 at first pitch. By the time Ramirez connected off Axford, he wasn't worried about the forecast.
And he didn't worry about a few celebratory knocks on his noggin after coming through with his second career walk-off homer.
"At that time, I didn't feel any cold at all," Ramirez said. "That was a great moment. The most important thing is we won the game."
"With the way things have been going lately, no game's over just because we're down a run," Danks said. "Especially going into the ninth."