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White Sox 3, Indians 2

July 6, 1996

CLEVELAND (AP) _ The Chicago White Sox don’t want to let first place slip away again.

A week ago, the White Sox were within two outs of tying the Cleveland Indians atop the AL Central before losing. Now, after Saturday’s 3-2 win, they get another try.

``We’re got a chance to be tied for first place at the All-Star break,″ Tony Phillips said. ``Without a doubt, we want it.″

The White Sox have beaten Cleveland every which way in the first three games of the series. On Thursday, they won in extra innings, a situation in which Cleveland was 13-0 in 1995. On Friday, Chicago handed the Indians their first shutout of the season.

Saturday’s victory was a little more conventional. Just outstanding pitching by Kevin Tapani and two home runs by Harold Baines, who broke a 2-2 tie in the ninth with a homer to left off Paul Shuey (2-2).

Matt Karchner (7-2) pitched one perfect inning, and Roberto Hernandez worked the ninth for his 26th save.

Even if the White Sox lose the last game before the All-Star break on Sunday, they have already achieved their goal in Cleveland.

``We knew that if they swept us here, we’d be eight games out, and that’s tough to come back from,″ Ozzie Guillen said. ``The worst we can do is be two games behind.″

Considering they finished 32 games behind the pennant-winning Indians in third place last season, this would seem to be something to cheer about.

Not so fast, Baines said.

``It’s too early for that,″ he said.

After Jim Thome gave the Indians a 1-0 lead with a solo homer off Tapani in the fourth, Baines gave Chicago a 2-1 lead with a 410-foot, two-run shot to center off Charles Nagy in the seventh. It was his 200th homer as a member of the White Sox.

Omar Vizquel tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI double to center. Vizquel’s two-out shot skidded under Dave Martinez’s glove, scoring Manny Ramirez, who had also doubled.

But Cleveland’s sputtering lineup could not rescue Nagy, who gave up five hits in eight innings, walking two and striking out five. He left after the eighth.

Tapani gave up six hits and two runs in 6 2-3 innings, but left with the game tied.

A players-only meeting in the Cleveland locker room before the game did not reap benefits _ at least not yet. Cleveland is 18-20 since May 27, and two of the Indians’ best hitters _ Albert Belle and Carlos Baerga _ are in terrible slumps.

``I don’t know why, but we seem to be going in different directions,″ Vizquel said. ``I think some guys read newspapers and watch too much TV, and it affects them.

``The big guys all spoke up and got on some people,″ Vizquel continued. ``Eddie Murray talked. So did Dennis Martinez and Tony Pena. Orel Hershiser really spoke his mind. He got all over some people.″

Thome, whose homer snapped Cleveland’s 14-inning scoreless streak against the White Sox, said the meeting did some good. But he added, ``Having a meeting in here does not make you go out and win out there.″

Belle, below .300 for the first time since April 27, went 0-for-4 and is 4-for-24 on the homestand. Baerga was 0-for-4 and is 4-for-25 on the homestand.

Making matters worse, Julio Franco left the game after aggravating his hamstring injury while legging out a hit in the ninth. Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said he didn’t know how severe it was.

Despite winning at least three games in Jacobs Field on a summer weekend that might be worth remembering in September, the White Sox consider Cleveland the champs until someone knocks them off.

``To me they are, yeah,″ Guillen said. ``I’m realistic.″

Notes: Frank Thomas failed to reach base for only the second time this season. ... Tapani has pitched into the sixth inning in every start but his first this season, a span of 17 straight. ... Hargrove juggled the lineup, batting Baerga second and Thome third. ... Cleveland general manager John Hart said contract negotiations with Belle still have not resumed.

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