CLEVELAND -- Jason Giambi emerged from the crowd of teammates at home plate, missing his helmet, with his shirt coming untucked and unbuttoned. The veteran slugger saw his manager, grinning and jogging his way with arms extended.
Manager Terry Francona embraced Giambi, who then hoisted his manager into the air.
It was a moment of pure joy.
"It was fun until it hurt," Francona joked. "And then it was like, 'OK, put me down.'"
On Monday night, Giambi carried Cleveland to a 3-2 victory over the White Sox in walk-off fashion, ending an evening that began with strong starting pitching. The 42-year-old veteran came off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, crushing a slider from Chicago reliever Ramon Troncoso that hung too long in the wrong part of the strike zone.
For Giambi, the pitch was in the perfect position for his seemingly ageless swing.
"Gorgeous, wasn't it?" Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said.
The win was the fifth in a row for the Indians, who moved 2 1/2 games back of the American League Central-leading Tigers, who were idle on Monday. Cleveland (57-48) has notched 10 victories in its past 14 games, largely due to the type of strong starting pitching performance that Zach McAllister turned in against Chicago.
When Giambi's towering home run disappeared into the trees beyond the center-field wall, he became the oldest player in Major League history to launch a walk-off shot, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Hank Aaron previously held that record with his game-winning blast off Texas' Steve Foucault on July 11, 1976.
"I wasn't trying to do too much," Giambi said. "I just wanted to see it and kind of hit it. I got a pitch up in the strike zone and ended up catching up to it."
That was a humble reaction for a man with 436 career homers on his resume.
"He's been doing that for a while," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He's over there for a reason."
Giambi's batting average on the season only sits at .194, but he now boasts seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 124 at-bats, and brings the kind of leadership that is impossible to quantify.
"You could fill up a book," Francona said, "because I keep trying to say how I feel about him, and I just don't feel like I ever quite get there. That's how valuable I feel like he is to our team."
For five innings, it appeared as though Cleveland's 1-0 advantage would be sufficient for McAllister.
Cleveland entered Monday's meeting with Chicago (40-63) having logged consecutive shutouts, giving the Indians a Major League-high 17 blankings on the season. After five scoreless innings to open his outing against the White Sox, McAllister pushed the Tribe's scoreless streak to 26 innings.
Chicago finally put an end to the long string of zeros.
In the sixth, Alex Rios sliced a pitch from McAllister into right field, where it skipped down the line to give him a two-out double. Adam Dunn then stepped to the plate and pulled an 0-1 offering into right for another two-base hit, scoring Rios for a 1-1 tie. Paul Konerko, who has tormented the Tribe throughout his career, followed with an RBI single to center to give the White Sox the lead.
Herb Score, Mike Garcia and Bob Lemon remain safe in the Indians' history book.
That trio last turned in three straight shutouts for the Tribe in 1956.
"I left a few pitches up," McAllister said. "Whether they hit it hard or they don't, they're good hitters, and they can put the ball in play and make you pay for mistakes."
The Indians struggled to get much going against White Sox lefty John Danks, but did manage to get McAllister off the hook for what would have been a hard-luck loss. In the home half of the sixth, Cleveland loaded the bases behind two walks and a bunt single -- the latter from Jason Kipnis -- and eked out one run on the three straight groundouts that followed.
McAllister walked away with a no-decision after holding the White Sox to two runs on five hits in his seven innings, which includes a pair of strikeouts and one walk. The right-hander's performance fell in line with the rotation's recent success. Dating to July 8, the Tribe's starting staff now has a 1.84 ERA over 17 contests.
This win, however, took an entire team effort.
"We made some mistakes," said Francona, whose club went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. "But it didn't cost us the ballgame, because guys picked each other up. That's huge."
In the ninth, right fielder Ryan Raburn misplayed a line drive from Dayan Viciedo, who wound up with a two-out triple. Left fielder Michael Brantley bailed Raburn out with a running catch to snare a liner off the bat of Gordon Beckham.
"Those are the kind of things that save ballgames," Giambi said.
Giambi's clout is the kind of stuff that wins games.
His teammates swarmed home plate as he rumbled around the bases, the crowd roaring with each step. When Giambi reached the pack, he thrust his arms into the air and jumped into mob, which closed in on him in celebration.
"The guy is still built like a greek god and he can still hit the ball a quarter mile," Swisher said. "Not only that, he's done so much for everybody in this locker room. In a sense, he's almost like a player-coach, in a way, just because he has so much knowledge.
"A lot of us, we almost wish we could have the career he's had. To have a guy like that in our locker room, and for him to hit the game-winning home run, it was electric."
After nearly two decades in the game, it is such moments that keep Giambi going.
"I love it," Giambi said. "That's what keeps you coming back every single year, is that moment. Winning a ballgame and celebrating as a ballclub. There's nothing better."