White Sox 8, Indians 6
CLEVELAND (AP)—Booed, taunted and ridiculed. Back in the ballpark he once called home, Jim Thome was treated like the enemy.
In Cleveland, that’s what he is now.
Playing his first game as a visitor in Jacobs Field, Thome endured some harsh treatment from Cleveland fans who used to cheer every one of his monster homers during Chicago’s 8-6 win over the Indians on Monday night.
“It was just a night of booing,” Thome said. “That’s all it was.”
Javier Vazquez dominated for six innings and Paul Konerko hit a three-run homer in the first inning to help Thome make the most of his return to Cleveland. The Indians’ career home run leader bolted as a free agent following the 2002 season, signing a six-year, $85 million deal with Philadelphia and leaving behind a trail of broken hearts and bitterness across Northeast Ohio.
There’s still some harsh feelings among Indians fans.
The boos and insults directed at Thome got progressively worse as the 3-hour, 44-minute game plodded on. Thome said he was somewhat surprised by the negativity, and in typical fashion, he took it in stride.
“It puts a little closure on everything,” he said. “You play to win the game. You don’t play to hear boos. The bottom line is we won the ballgame. You definitely hear it. There’s nothing else to say. You move on.”
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, never one to hold back an opinion, called the crowd’s reaction to Thome “brutal.”
“I was real disappointed by it, kind of embarrassing,” he said. “Even the Indians players were shaking their heads. Booing Jim Thome? You don’t boo him, he’s a class act. That’s OK. We’ll give him a standing ovation in Chicago.”
Before heading to the ballpark, Thome, who lives in a Cleveland suburb during the offseason, got a request from his young daughter, Lila.
“She told me,” Thome said “‘Daddy, hit me a tater.”’
Thome didn’t muscle out a homer for his little girl and went 1-for-5 with an RBI in his first game at the Jake since Sept. 29, 2002. He also struck out twice to the delight of some Cleveland fans.
Vazquez (3-1) allowed five hits and would have blanked the Indians for six innings if left fielder Scott Podsednik hadn’t dropped a two-out fly ball. The error led to Cleveland’s only run off Vazquez, who has given up two earned runs in his last 20 innings.
Konerko connected for his seventh homer in the first off Cliff Lee (2-2).
“They beat us every way possible—hitting, pitching and defense,” Lee said.
Podsednik had four hits and matched a club record with four steals as the White Sox won their fourth straight and improved to 18-7—their record on May 1 a year ago when they went on to win the World Series.
Chicago has won eight straight and 10 of 11 in Cleveland.
The Indians trailed 7-0 after making a season-high four errors and playing some comical baseball in the first six innings. However, Travis Hafner’s third career grand slam—a towering shot off reliever Brandon McCarthy—brought Cleveland within two in the seventh.
It was Hafner’s eighth homer and first in 53 at-bats.
Thome was greeted with a mixture of boos and cheers when he came to the plate in the first. One sour Indians fan held up a cardboard sign that said: Et Tu, Thome?—a reference to Thome’s perceived betrayal.
With the White Sox leading 5-0 in the sixth, the crowd of 17,845 got a little testier, directing some derisive chants at Thome.
“A little bit, yes,” Thome said when asked if he was surprised by the boos. “But you understand this is a business. The Indians gave me a chance to play in the big leagues. There’s closure now.
“I’m where I should be. I’m happy, and we’re winning.”
Lee struggled to get through the first. He allowed consecutive singles to Podsednik and Tadahito Iguchi before fanning Thome. But Konerko followed with a 411-foot shot to right-center that made it 3-0.
It was Guillen’s 200th win as White Sox manager. He’s 117-70 since the start of last season. … On Tuesday, Indians LHP C.C. Sabathia makes his first start since getting hurt on opening night in Chicago. Sabathia strained an oblique muscle and had to leave in the third inning on April 2. “Here we go again,” Sabathia said of seeing the Sox again. … Indians C Victor Martinez extended his streak of reaching base to 41 straight games with a walk in the fourth. … Both benches were warned after Lee hit A.J. Pierzynski in the third and Vazquez threw behind Belliard in the bottom of the inning. Pierzynski proudly showed off the ball mark on his upper back in the clubhouse.