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Published: Wednesday, 5/30/2001

Thome, Alomar HR heroes

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT - Cleveland Indians second baseman Roberto Alomar had been mired in a bit of a mini-slump.

Alomar entered last night's game against the Detroit Tigers with a .395 average on the road, which was tops in the American League, yet he had just four hits, including one double, and one RBI in his last 28 at-bats.

Even worse, Alomar had only one hit in his last 15 at-bats with one RBI and no extra base hits.

The 33-year-old Alomar, a 10-time All-Star, broke out of his funk in a big way.

Alomar went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and hit a tie-breaking two-run homer in the seventh inning off Detroit reliever Heath Murray as Indians snapped a three-game losing streak with a 6-4 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park.

It was just Alomar's second homer of the season.

“I don't get a chance to hit too many home runs, so it feels good to finally hit one,” Alomar said. “I was just looking for a pitch to drive in that situation. It hit it pretty hard but it surprised me a little bit when it went out.”

Alomar's teammate, Jim Thome, became the Tribe's career leader in home runs, passing Albert Belle, when he led off the fourth inning with his 243rd career round-tripper, and his 10th of the season.

“It's a great honor, a great feeling,” said Thome, who had someone retrieve the historic home run ball for his mantle. “There are a lot of good guys on that list, from Albert to Manny (Ramirez) and on down. I'm just happy to do it as an Indian. It means I've been around a long time. “

Thome's teammates presented him with a bottle of champagne but he celebrated with a beer.

“I'm not a champagne guy,” he said. “I'm a Bud Lite guy.”

Alomar's homer, which came after Omar Vizquel had drawn a leadoff walk, helped make a winner out of Cleveland reliever Paul Shuey (4-1), who pitched 11/3 innings of hitless baseball. Bob Wickman pitched a scoreless ninth for his 10th save.

“That's the thing I really like about this team - there's always somebody who will pick us up,” said Thome, who has belted four homers in the past five games. “We needed somebody to come up big for us tonight when the game was tied 4-4, and it was Robbie. We have no shortage of heroes.”

The Indians, who pounded out a season-high eight extra base hits among their nine, played without manager Charlie Manuel, who was serving the first of a two-game suspension for returning to the field after being ejected from a game last week.

The Tigers, who had nine hits but left 11 men on base, have dropped six of their past seven games.

“Our walks are killing us,” Tigers manager Phil Garner said. “We're making great hitters out of their good hitters. With that ballclub, if you're giving them extra base-runners, they're really going to take off on you.”

Indians slugger Juan Gonzalez, the former Tiger, left the game in the seventh inning with a bruised left big toe, which resulted from a ball he fouled off of it. Gonzalez had the toe drained.

“It feels better now,” Gonzalez said. “It shouldn't be a problem. I should be ready to go tomorrow.”

Cleveland starter Dave Burba, who already had beaten the Tigers twice this season, failed to become the AL's first eight-game winner, allowing four runs, eight hits, four walks and three wild pitches before leaving after five innings with a groin pull.

In his 11 starts this year, Burba has yielded 26 earned runs in the first three innings - 33 innings overall - for a 7.09 ERA. The rest of the way, Burba has allowed just 11 runs in 292/3 innings for a 3.34 ERA.

“I don't know when it happened, but it started hurting me in the third inning,” Burba said. “I didn't have any trouble throwing the ball, but I did have trouble on my landing. I didn't have any kind of fastball and that didn't help, either.”

Detroit starter Victor Santos went 51/3 innings. He gave up four runs on five hits, walked four and struck out four.

Roger Cedeno had his fourth three-hit game of the year for the Tigers and Tony Clark went 2-for-5 with his first triple since 1997. Jose Macias also had two hits and is batting .556 (5-for-9) in the first two games of the series.



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