CLEVELAND (AP) -- There wasn't a cloud in the sky Saturday. Even
the big, black one hanging over the Cleveland Indians this season
had vanished, too.
"The sun is out, and guys are taking advantage of it," said
Omar Vizquel. "The last week feels like a different team here.
We're back to having a lot of fun."
Jim Thome's three-run homer capped a fifth inning when Cleveland
scored eight unearned runs and sent the Indians to an 8-4 win over
the Chicago White Sox, who dropped their season-high sixth straight.
Thome's 15th homer -- and fourth in three days -- concluded
Cleveland's biggest inning since April 7, 2000, and came after
Chicago's infield made two errors behind starter Todd Ritchie
"The wheels just fell off," Ritchie said. "It seems when
things are going bad, they're really going bad."
Ritchie, who beat the Indians twice earlier this season, didn't
allow an earned run but lost his fifth consecutive start.
Vizquel hit a two-out, two-run single in the fifth as the
Indians won their third straight to move within one game of the
second-place White Sox in the AL Central.
Cleveland (27-28) has won seven of nine, and the Indians'
offense is warming up just like the weather.
"I see the confidence rising with every Jim Thome home run,"
said Indians reliever Paul Shuey. "I finally feel like we've got
potential. Whenever you hit the ball like we have the past few
games, it gives you confidence.
"It's the way I remember it being around here."
Chicago manager Jerry Manuel held a 45-minute team meeting
following Friday's 7-0 loss, and the White Sox were responding
until their defense fell apart in the fifth.
Danys Baez (5-4) won for the first time in four starts, allowing
four runs and seven hits in six-plus innings.
Cleveland's slumbering offense is finally showing signs of life.
After scoring five runs just twice in their previous 14 games,
the Indians, who came in ranked 12th in the AL in batting average
and runs, have scored 26 in their last three. Cleveland is 22-4
when scoring at least four runs.
"Our offense is starting to swing the bats and that's a
positive," Thome said. "We haven't had an inning like that in a
long time. It's nice."
Cleveland, though, was trailing 3-0 before the White Sox decided
to give the Indians some help in the fifth.
Ritchie, who had an 8.41 ERA in losing his last four starts,
retired the first 13 in a row before losing his bid for a perfect
game, no-hitter and shutout in a hurry.
With two outs, Einar Diaz walked and rookie Chris Magruder
singled to make it 3-2. Ritchie walked Matt Lawton and Vizquel, the
Indians' most consistent hitter this season, followed with his
Vizquel had been 0-for-16 in his career against Ritchie before
"I didn't know that," Vizquel said. "Thanks for telling me."
Ellis Burks then hit a grounder to short for what should have
been the inning's final out, but second baseman Ray Durham dropped
the force at second, allowing Lawton to score and keeping the
Indians' inning alive.
"You can tell that they're playing tight right now," Shuey
said of the Sox, "and that helps because we can feed off it."
Thome made the White Sox pay by hitting a 2-2 pitch over the
wall in left-center, and Cleveland's first baseman pumped his fist
several times as he rounded the bases.
Thome is batting .330 (32-for-97) with eight homers and 22 RBI in his last 30 games.
Sandy Alomar gave Chicago a 2-0 lead in the fourth with his
fourth homer, and Magglio Ordonez's two-out RBI double in the fifth
put the Sox ahead 3-0.
The White Sox took a 1-0 lead on Aaron Rowand's broken-bat RBI
double in the second.
Alomar had to be lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth
when he got lightheaded. Alomar has a heart condition and gets
dizzy if he drinks cold liquids too quickly. "I have to be more
careful," said Alomar, who had a similar spell earlier this season
in Texas. ... Three generations of great Venezuelan shortstops
posed for pictures before the game as Vizquel was joined by Hall of
Famer Luis Aparicio and Davey Concepcion. Vizquel is being
presented with his ninth straight Gold Glove this weekend, and
Aparicio and Concepcion came in for the festivities. ... White Sox
OF Kenny Lofton sat out his second straight game with inflammation
in his right rotator cuff. Lofton, leading the AL in steals, has
499 career stolen bases.