Thome hits 499th homer to help the Chicago White Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 7-4

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CHICAGO (AP)—Jim Thome is just one away now, and he’s having a whole lot of fun with his pursuit of a memorable milestone.

Thome hit his 499th homer and drove in three runs to lead the Chicago White Sox over the Cleveland Indians 7-4 Wednesday.

“It’s been pretty awesome,” Thome said. “I guess it’s kind of reality now. It’s getting close.”

The White Sox, already eliminated from the playoffs, ended a three-game skid and snapped AL Central-leading Cleveland’s four-game winning streak.

After flying out to shallow right in his first at-bat, Thome, a former Indian, drove a 2-0 fastball from Jake Westbrook out to right field leading off the fourth inning to give the White Sox a 2-1 lead. It was his 27th of the season.

“You know about it, definitely,” Westbrook said of Thome’s pursuit. “It doesn’t mean I pitch him any differently.”

Thome would become the 23rd to reach 500 and the third this season, following Frank Thomas and Alex Rodriguez.

With a disastrous season coming to a close, the White Sox are in the mood to celebrate something besides contract extensions and upcoming vacations.

“It’s something to look forward to, especially for myself,” said manager Ozzie Guillen, who was just rewarded with a four-year extension despite the team’s woes. “Every time Thome hits a home run, it makes it easy for me to come and talk (to the media) about the game. Not many players in the clubhouse have seen a milestone like that.”

The team has a “Thome Ticker” on a billboard in right field, and the designated hitter said he and the team are planning to handsomely reward the fan who catches No. 500, so he can get the ball back and personally deliver it to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Thome, who finished with three hits, came up in the fifth with the bases loaded and one out and sent a broken-bat single into right on Westbrook’s first pitch to drive in two runs.

“You could feel the excitement in the dugout,” the 37-year-old Thome said. “The guys were getting excited. It’s just a matter of going out and not really thinking about it, but it’s tough.”

Thome spent about three weeks on the disabled list this season and has missed 30 games after earning AL Comeback Player of the Year honors last year with 42 homers and 107 RBIs. He homered in three straight games last week, hitting No. 498 off Minnesota’s Juan Rincon on Sunday.

After a day off Thursday, Thome has three more games to hit 500 at U.S. Cellular Field this weekend against the Los Angeles Angels. The afternoon crowd was announced at 23,537, but was probably smaller.

“Now he has a good chance to do it here in Chicago,” Guillen said. “Hopefully he comes through in those three games. It’s always nice to see something like, especially with the way we’re going.”

Thome singled again with two outs in the seventh and Paul Konerko drove him in with his 29th homer, a shot that was disputed by the Indians, who thought the ball went wide of the foul pole in left. After huddling up in the infield, the umpires ruled it fair.

“It was foul,” Indians third baseman Casey Blake said. “Not by much. (Third base umpire) Rob Drake is a good umpire, he’s not going to get him all right, but I can tell it was foul.”

Javier Vazquez (12-8) won for the first time in four starts, striking out nine and giving up two runs, one earned, and six hits. He struck out six in a row and eight of 10 over one stretch. Juan Uribe also hit his 19th homer for the White Sox.

“I think the next game we’re going to mark Uribe’s 20th,” Guillen said, laughing.

Westbrook (5-9) gave up five runs, four earned, and seven hits in six innings. Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez each had RBI singles.

Notes

Thome has hit six homers against his former club and three against Westbrook. … Thome’s wife, daughter, father and sister were sitting just behind home plate. … According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no player has ever hit homers 499 and 500 in the same game. … Indians DH Travis Hafner and SS Jhonny Peralta got days off. Ryan Garko hit third for Hafner and Franklin Gutierrez hit fifth for Peralta. … Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera singled in the first Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. … Scott Podsednik started in center field for Chicago for the first time since 2005. … White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said Tuesday’s starter, rookie John Danks, likely won’t start again this season, and may not pitch in a game at all. Danks lasted just 2 2-3 innings in his last start after a 10-day rest.

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