CHICAGO -- Addison Reed had never faced Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan. Correction: The hard-throwing White Sox reliever had never faced this Jack Hannahan, who has suddenly become Cleveland's resident expert on hitting in the clutch.
The old version of Hannahan was known for his glove. There have always been bats with Hannahan's name on them sitting in the rack, but he never did much with those. At least for now, that has changed drastically, and Hannahan showed Reed precisely the kind of hitter he is in the Tribe's 6-3 victory over Chicago on Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
"I love coming up with guys in scoring position," Hannahan said.
The rejuvenated Indians third baseman received just that chance with the White Sox and Indians caught in a 3-3 deadlock in the eighth inning. With two outs and runners on first and second base, Chicago manager Robin Ventura pulled the left-handed Will Ohman from the game and turned to the right-handed Reed with Hannahan looming.
Besides their lack of history, it was a peculiar decision. There is, of course, the fact that the lefy-swinging Hannahan has hit right-handers to the tune of a .340 average this season. Add the third baseman's resurgence as a run producer with runners in scoring position to the equation and it seemed certain the hot-hitting Hannahan would have a good chance to come through.
Sure enough, Hannahan sliced a 1-1 fastball down the left-field line, where it stayed just fair and skipped into foul ground for a stand-up double. Michael Brantley scored easily on the play to put the Tribe ahead, 4-3. That was the start of the rally, which later included a two-run home run from Travis Hafner in the ninth inning.
Hannahan's heroics put the late push in motion.
"It got to a point where we brought Reeder in there," Ventura said. "They kind of snuck one in there inside the line."
Hannahan, who entered this season with a .231 career average and a .222 mark with runners in scoring position has been sneaking hits in at a high rate early on. The third baseman is now hitting .292 with a team-leading 15 RBIs. Hannahan has hit .500 (9-for-18) with runners in scoring position and .615 (8-for-13) with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Hannahan's eight hits with runners in scoring position and two outs lead the Majors.
He said there is no secret formula for delivering in such scenarios.
"It's all about staying with your approach and not trying to do too much," he said. "It's easy to get excited and pull off a ball you should be able to drive. You have to stay within yourself and just kind of do what the pitch allows you to do. Stay calm. If you've got to take a walk, you've got to take a walk and let the guy behind you do it. I think we've been doing good at it."
Personally, Hannahan thinks he has turned a corner in that regard.
"Absolutely," he said. "Early on in my career, when I've had guys in scoring position, I was trying to do too much. I was trying to hit that home run instead of just hitting the ball the other way or hitting a ground ball up the middle. I've found out this year that less is more. I'm just trying to put the bat on the ball."
Hannahan's late hit, and Hafner's ninth-inning blast off lefty Matt Thornton, helped the American League Central-leading Indians (12-10) overcome a handful of missed opportunities early against White Sox starter Philip Humber. Cleveland loaded the bases in the first and third innings and Humber came away unscathed at both turns.
Indians outfielder Johnny Damon, who made his debut for the club, went 0-for-3 with a walk and exited the contest in the sixth inning after coming down with what the team described as "general cramping." Damon was optimistic about his chances of being recovered enough to play on Thursday for the Tribe.
"We put together a bunch of good at-bats," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "except in those situations where Humber made some good pitches."
Humber walked away with a no-decision after allowing three runs -- all coming on a home run from Indians catcher Carlos Santana in the fifth inning -- on four hits over six innings, during which he walked six for the White Sox (12-12). Humber squared off against his close friends and offseason workout partner, Tribe righty Josh Tomlin.
Tomlin also headed home with a no-decision after giving up three runs over six frames. Adam Dunn belted a solo homer off the right-hander in the fourth inning and Alexei Ramirez added a two-run single with the bases loaded in the fifth. The latter pulled the game into a 3-3 tie, setting the stage for Hannahan to come through in the clutch once again.
"Hannahan continues to be huge for us in the clutch," Acta said. "He had a huge hit with two outs."