The White Sox needed just one out: a lazy fly ball, three strikes, a line drive into someone's glove to end a long losing streak to the Indians.
The win was close enough to touch.
Jason Giambi put it out of reach.
The 42-year-old connected for a two-run, pinch-hit homer off Addison Reed (5-4) with two outs in the ninth inning to give Cleveland its 13th straight win over Chicago, a stunning 5-4 victory that allowed the Indians to keep hold of the second AL wild-card playoff spot for another day.
The White Sox had lost 94 previous times this season before Giambi connected. This one seemed to sting a little more.
"I'm tired of saying this," said manager Robin Ventura after his team played in its 58th one-run game. "It's kind of indicative of our season. We just lost."
Reed hung a 1-1 slider to Giambi, who belted it deep into the seats in right field for his 10th career walk-off homer and his second as a pinch-hitter this season.
"It stinks," Reed said. "We fought back and got us where we needed to be and I let them down."
The White Sox had taken a 4-3 lead in the ninth when Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza homered off Cleveland closer Chris Perez. But after giving up a one-out single, Reed struck out Mike Aviles before Giambi came up and potentially saved the Indians' season.
"Those are hard outs to get," Ventura said. "You have to have some thick skin to be able to bounce back and do that job because anytime you give up a run or even a couple of them, you end up losing games. It's a tough position to be in at any point, especially when you lose a couple."
The White Sox could finish the season without first baseman Paul Konerko, who fouled a ball off his knee in the eighth inning. He stayed in and struck out against Joe Smith before he was replaced defensively. Ventura said the team will know more about Konerko on Wednesday.
White Sox DH Adam Dunn struck out four times, dropping his average to .119 (7 for 59) in September.
As he rounded third base, Giambi slowed down before being engulfed at the plate by his teammates as the Indians celebrated a win they had to have. Giambi then wrapped his arms around manager Terry Francona, hugged him tightly and carried him off the field.
"I think I have a man crush on 'G,'" Francona said. "That was pretty awesome. Boy, did he hit that ball. Wow!"
The Indians have 11 walk-off wins this season, with nine players taking turns in the hero's role.
"I've said this before, but this is the ultimate team I've ever played on," Giambi said. "It's unbelievable how many people have helped us win games this season."
Long after Giambi's homer cut through the chilly October-like air, fans lingered in their seats and the Indians were still in a daze.
"I was giggling around the ball field and the hallways like a 7-year old kid for 10 minutes after that happened," All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "That was the coolest thing I've ever seen."
Bryan Shaw (6-3) came in after Perez had nearly given away a game the Indians couldn't afford to lose.
Giambi has been a steadying force all season for the Indians in the clubhouse, and the unquestioned Drama King on it.
This was his 10th career walk-off homer, and his second pinch-hit, walk-off this season. On July 29, he became the oldest player to hit a walk-off homer, breaking a mark previously held by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. Now, Giambi has become the Indians' elder statesman of swat.
After he dressed, Giambi was on his way out of Cleveland's clubhouse when Nick Swisher offered his assistance.
"I'll carry you. I'll carry your car. I'll carry anything you need, 'Big G,'" Swisher said. "That guy has been monstrous for this organization."
Even the White Sox appreciate Giambi.
"I've seen him do that before," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. "Having played with him, just knowing how he is on the team, you might not see it in numbers, but the personality of their team and how they play, how they go about their business, I know he's a pretty big piece of that, regardless of how much he's played."