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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2001

Westbrook hangs tough

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - Jake Westbrook found himself in an uncomfortable situation on more than one occasion against Chicago last night at Jacobs Field.

The Cleveland right-hander didn't respond well.

Yet he en-dured long enough on the mound to walk away with a certain amount of satisfaction after the Indians collected a 7-5 victory before a sellout crowd of 42,645 on hand for a game that started a half-hour late because of rain.

Westbrook, who gave up four runs on eight hits in five innings, improved to 3-2 for the year while ending a two-game losing streak.

Westbrook nearly left the game in the second inning when Ray Durham smashed a liner that headed back to the mound and hit him on his right shin just above his ankle. Westbrook said he initially felt some discomfort before the pain gradually went away, and he continued to pitch through the fifth inning.

“It wasn't pretty, but the offense picked me up,” Westbrook said. “It was a battle. It's nice when the offense can come back and get some runs.”

The Indians hammered away at Chicago right-hander Rocky Biddle during the first three innings to build enough of a lead for Cleveland's bullpen to protect. Omar Vizquel came through with a three-run double and Jim Thome provided a solo blast off Biddle (2-7), who gave up seven runs on eight hits in 21/3 innings.

“We played good,” Cleveland manager Charlie Manuel said. “We (were) hitting early and got the lead and held on to it.

“And the bullpen tonight was very good.”

Steve Woodard, Danny Baez, John Rocker and Bob Wickman stepped in after Westbrook to limit the White Sox (49-50) to one run on two hits over the final four innings.

“I'm the kind of guy that takes everything to heart and I hear some people say that we're not doing our job, but I think we're all doing a good job,” said Wickman, who earned his 17th save.

The Indians, taking advantage of two Chicago errors in the first inning, jumped ahead 2-0.

Vizquel bunted for a hit. Roberto Alomar followed with a walk, with Vizquel going over to third when Chicago catcher Sandy Alomar threw to an empty second base on the fourth ball call to Roberto Alomar.

Vizquel gave Cleveland a 1-0 lead moments later when an errant throw to first by Biddle, attempting to pick off Alomar, got away from Chicago first baseman Jeff Liefer. Alomar advanced to second on the play.

It became 2-0 when Thome, who entered the game having struck out in his last seven at-bats, lined a single to right that brought home Alomar.

Chicago came back in the second to score three runs off Westbrook.

Paul Konerko led off with a solo homer, his 22nd, and Jose Valentin stroked a two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs to put the White Sox ahead 3-2.

The Indians rallied for three runs on three hits in their half of the second to go ahead 5-3. Vizquel delivered the big blow when he doubled to right-center with the bases loaded.

“I just tried to lift the ball a little bit to hit a sacrifice fly, but the ball happened to be in the gap and I got three RBIs,” Vizquel said.

After Chicago scored a run in the third, the Indians came up with a pair of runs in their half for a 7-4 edge.

Thome led off the third with his American League-leading 32nd homer of the season. Travis Fryman and Russell Branyan hit back-to-back doubles to account for Clevaland's other run in the inning.

YOUNG C.C.: Hard-throwing rookie C.C. Sabathia, 21, earned not only a win over Chicago on Monday, the lefty also earned the distinction of becoming the youngest pitcher to win his 10th game of the season since 20-year-old Edwin Correa reached that plateau for the 1986 Texas Rangers. Sabathia became the first Cleveland rookie left-hander since Scott Bailes in 1986 to win 10 games.

ODDS & ENDS: The Indians went over 2 million in attendance for the seventh straight season. ... Baez, who learned a split-finger fastball during spring training, has appeared in nine of Cleveland's 14 games in the second half. ... Vizquel and Roberto Alomar are now a combined 10-for-10 against Biddle. ... White Sox reliever Jon Garland gave up just one hit in four innings. ... Thome's 36 RBIs are the league's most in July since Juan Gonzalez drove in 38 for Texas in 1996. ... Sandy Alomar had two infield singles and now has 999 career hits. ... The start was delayed by 30 minutes after some welcome rain showers cooled down the Cleveland area. ... Konerko had 21 homers all last season. He hit a career-high 24 in 1999.

STRATEGY: Manuel said the club may take advantage of an upcoming day-night doubleheader in Detroit on Saturday by having right-hander Bartolo Colon drop his appeal of a seven-game suspension after he pitches tomorrow. “We want to pick the right time,” Manuel said. Colon could trim two games off his suspension by starting to serve it on Saturday. ... Left-hander Chuck Finley threw for 10 minutes in the Indians' bullpen and remains on schedule to make two minor league rehab starts as he continues to recover from neck spasms.



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