White Sox 7, Indians 4

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CLEVELAND (AP)—The Chicago White Sox ended a disheartening first half of the season with a sliver of hope, and a much wider margin to overcome in the AL Central.

Tony Graffanino hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning Sunday as Chicago went into the All-Star break with a 7-4 win over the Cleveland Indians.

Graffanino’s shot off Alex Herrera snapped a 4-4 tie and helped the disappointing White Sox, picked by many to win their division, just their second win in seven games.

“It was a big win, and we finished a frustrating first half on a high note,” Graffanino said. “We can’t do anything about the past. We have to come out next week interested and excited, and stay that way.”

Chicago went 3-7 on a three-city trip and entered the break at 45-49—not the record they envisioned after adding ace Bartolo Colon this winter to an already powerful lineup.

“It was a pretty ugly first half, but there’s still time,” Frank Thomas said. “It will be good to get away for a few days then come back and play some real baseball. We have to pick up the intensity like we did a couple weeks ago.”

Magglio Ordonez, one of three White Sox who will get to play on their home field in Tuesday’s All-Star game at U.S. Cellular Field, hit a three-run homer as the White Sox took a 4-0 lead in the first.

Damaso Marte (4-1) pitched two scoreless innings for the win. Tom Gordon allowed consecutive singles to start the ninth before getting his third save.

Gordon is expecting more from himself and his teammates in the second half.

“We have let some (wins) slip away, but you can’t do anything about that now,” he said. “Thursday is Day One of the season and we have to come out firing. We play like we know we can play, we’ll be fine.”

Jody Gerut homered for the inexperienced Indians, who started six rookies Sunday and reached the break at 41-53—one game worse than they were after 94 games last season.

Cleveland closed the unofficial first half by going 34-33 after a 7-20 start in April.

“I definitely see hope,” said Gerut, one of the Indians’ nicest surprises. “We’ve got room to grow, but as long as we continue to learn, we’ll be fine.”

Paul Konerko singled to open the eighth off Rafael Betancourt (0-1), making his major league debut. Joe Crede sacrificed and with first base open, Herrera walked pinch-hitter Carl Everett.

Following a double steal, Miguel Oliva struck out, but Graffanino connected on a 1-2 pitch, driving it onto the terrace in left for his fifth homer—and first since May 21.

Indians rookie starter Billy Traber, who threw a one-hitter Tuesday night against the New York Yankees, settled down after allowing four runs in the first inning.

The left-hander gave up eight hits in six innings, but only two after the second.

“I looked for their weaknesses,” Traber said of his game plan, “and I didn’t see many.”

Trailing 4-1, the Indians tied it with three runs in the fifth off Chicago starter Jon Garland on Brandon Phillips’ RBI double and Milton Bradley’s two-out, two-run single.

Bradley, however, probably cost the Indians the go-ahead run in the inning.

He was on first when Shane Spencer hit a double high off the wall in left, missing a homer by inches. Bradley appeared to get caught watching the shot and only made it to third.

He was left stranded there when Travis Hafner struck out looking.

Indians manager Eric Wedge, who benched Bradley earlier this season for not hustling, had a brief chat with his combative center fielder before the sixth.

“I wanted to make sure he was OK,” Wedge explained. “His knees were barking a little bit.”

Bradley, who seems to enjoy getting under people’s skin, declined to comment.

After showering, Bradley got dressed, ducked around a partition in the Indians’ clubhouse and walked away from a group of reporters waiting to talk tohim without saying a word.

Notes

Fatherhood has agreed with Spencer. Since returning following the birth of his daughter, Maci, Spencer is batting .412 (7-for-17) with two homers and three RBIs. … Al Rosen, the AL’s MVP in 1953 when he missed winning the Triple Crown by one base hit, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The club honored the 50th anniversary of Rosen’s season by wearing replica uniforms and caps from ’53. The Indians also gave every fan 50 and older a Rosen bobblehead doll. … Ordonez is one of 14 players in White Sox history to make three straight All-Star appearances and one of just five since 1970. Dick Allen (1972-74), Harold Baines (1985-87), Jack McDowell (1991-93), Frank Thomas(1993-97) are the others.

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