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Slugger just misses 500th career HR with foul balls

5/10/2003

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- There were a couple of things missing
from Rafael Palmeiro's near-perfect night. He didn't get his 500th
home run, and the Texas Rangers lost.

Palmeiro gave the crowd some drama with a couple of long foul
balls his final at-bat. He ended a 10-pitch affair with a two-out,
two-run double in the ninth before the Rangers lost 9-5 to the
Cleveland Indians on Friday night.

The closest Palmeiro came to 500 was on the pitch before the
double, when he hit a ball into the stands just right of the foul
pole. The crowd was going wild, but Palmeiro knew that wasn't the
one.

"First of all, I knew it was foul. Second of all, I hit it off
the end of the bat," Palmeiro said. "Eventually, it's going to
happen."

Palmeiro finished 2-for-2 with a sacrifice fly and two walks. He
moved into 25th place on the career RBI list with 1,597, passing
Mike Schmidt and George Brett.

Omar Vizquel had four of Cleveland's season-high 16 hits and
Matt Lawton had the only home run in the game.

Twice against Indians starter Jake Westbrook (2-2), Palmeiro hit
first pitches -- the run-scoring fly to center in the first and a
line-drive single to right in the sixth. He walked in an 11-pitch
at-bat against David Elder in the eighth.

"When I came up to the plate every time, I really wasn't
thinking about doing anything other than just seeing the ball,
trying to get a good pitch to hit like I've always done," Palmeiro
said. "I want to get back in a grove and hit the ball every time
up, and I think I did."

Westbrook tried not to think about Palmeiro's pursuit of
history, but admitted it was hard to ignore with the loud cheers
each time the slugger came to the plate.

"You think about it, but you've got to go out there and try to
keep the ball down," Westbrook said. "I was just trying to get
him out, and I didn't even do that."

The Rangers were already down 7-1 when Palmeiro walked on a
full-count pitch in the third.

Cleveland chased John Thomson (2-4) with consecutive one-out RBI
singles by Shane Spencer and Travis Hafner in the third. Tim Laker
greeted reliever R.A. Dickey with a two-run double that made it
7-1.

Dickey didn't allow another run until Lawton led off the sixth
with his fifth homer, a 429-foot shot into the second deck of
stands in right-center field for an 8-2 lead. Lawton added an RBI
double to right in the eighth, but was thrown out trying to stretch
the hit into a triple.

Westbrook gave up two runs on seven hits over 6 2-3 innings, his
longest outing in six starts this season. He struck out two and
walked only Palmeiro.

Last Saturday, Westbrook hit Palmeiro's right elbow with a
pitch. Palmeiro then went 0-for-12 before hitting his 499th homer
in the eighth inning against Toronto on Thursday, a week after his
previous long ball.

"Raffy had some great at-bats tonight, and I don't think he is
feeling any pressure to hit No. 500," Rangers manager Buck
Showalter said. "He wants it to be in a winning effort."

Ellis Burks was the only Cleveland starter without a hit. The
Indians came in hitting .237 as a team with five of its starters
under .230.

"It feels good for a day," Vizquel said. "Now, we'll see if
we can sustain it. If we can continue to do that, we'll have some
confidence."

The Indians (10-24) have won three of four against Texas this
season. At 15-20 under Showalter, the Rangers are a game worse than
the same point last year when they went on to finish last in the AL
West for the third straight season.

Vizquel's had a one-out double in the first, and scored on
Milton Bradley's single. The Rangers got even in bottom of the
inning when leadoff hitter Carl Everett was hit by a pitch and
eventually scored on Palmeiro's sac fly.

Casey Blake and Brandon Phillips, the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, had
consecutive RBI doubles in the second to put the Indians ahead to
stay at 3-1. A leadoff single by Vizquel, who finished 4-for-5,
started the fourth-run third.

Michael Young had a leadoff single in the Texas fifth, then
advanced on a groundout and a wild pitch by Westbrook before
scoring on a groundout by Hank Blalock.

Game notes
A young boy was hit near the eye by Juan Gonzalez's foul
liner in the ninth inning. The boy was taken to a hospital, but his
condition and his identity weren't immediately known. The boy never
lost consciousness and didn't appear to be bleeding. ... Rangers RF
Juan Gonzalez has an AL-high five outfield assists. ... Vizquel has
twice had five hits in a game, the last against Texas on May 5,
2002. ... Hafner left the game in the middle of the third because
of a bruised big left toe. He was hit by a pitch in the second.

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