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Tribe Extends Wild-Card Lead

Roberto Alomar swears he's been hitting line drives all season. It's just that in September, no one's been catching them.

Alomar went 4-for-5 with three doubles and three RBIs and Dave Burba was his usual self Saturday, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 9-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

After battling nagging injuries most of the season, Alomar is healthy and it shows. He's batting .417 this month, and in his last 18 games he's hitting .381 with four homers and 17 RBIs.

"All I can do is hit it and hope it's not at somebody," said Alomar, who has raised his average to .290. "That's what's happening right now."

Cleveland snapped a four-game losing streak at home against first-place Chicago, which still leads the AL Central by 7 1/2 games. But while the Indians may be too late to catch the White Sox, they opened a 2 1/2-game lead over Oakland in the AL wild card race.

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  • The Indians also got some bad news. Left fielder Wil Cordero fractured his right pinky when he was hit with a pitch from Kevin Beirne in the third, and could be out for the season.

    "That's a big loss," Alomar said. "He's been getting a lot of big hits for us."

    Burba (14-6), who began having trouble breathing while warming up before the game in the humid conditions, allowed two runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings to win for the fourth time in five starts. The right-hander wasn't overpowering, but he kept the White Sox off balance and pitched at least five innings for the 27th time in 28 starts.

    "I couldn't catch my breath," Burba said, "and I started cramping up in the fourth inning. But the bottom line is that I battled through it and gve us a chance to win."

    Cleveland's bullpen held the White Sox to one hit over the final 3 1-3 innings.

    Russell Branyan added a two-run homer and David Segui went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for the Indians, who roughed up Chicago rookie starter Jon Garland (3-6).

    "I got behind guys and I wasn't able to throw strikes," Garland said. "I don't know if it was my mechanics or what it was. The last couple of outings been high with my fastball can't get it in the zone. You leave it over the plate and it just makes them better hitters."

    Frank Thomas drove in two runs for the White Sox, who made two errors and blew some scoring chances.

    But more troubling for Chicago could be the status of starter James Baldwin (shoulder) and reliever Bill Simas (elbow), who were both sent back to Chicago and received cortisone shots.

    Burba, who seems to have at least one bad inning every start, got out of a jam in the fourth by striking out Greg Norton with two runners on.

    However, the White Sox loaded the bases in the fifth and may have gotten closer than 5-2 except that Jose Valentin swung at Burba's first pitch and grounded into a double play before Thomas hit an RBI double.

    Alomar, who has benefited from Manny Ramirez's return to the lineup, gave the Indians some breathing room in the sixth with his two-out double. Branyan, who replaced Cordero in left, homered in the seventh off rookie Matt Ginter.

    Alomar couldn't remember his last three-double game, which came for the San Diego Padres 10 years ago.

    "Maybe Little League?" he asked before being told. "Wow, that was a long time ago."

    After failing to get a clutch hit in Friday's 5-4 loss, the Indians got a pair of two-out RBI hits in the first to take a 3-0 lead off Garland, who walked two and made a throwing error in the inning.

    Consecutive doubles by Alomar and Ramirez to open the third made it 4-0, and Segui rocketed a single off the wall in right to score Ramirez before getting caught in a rundown.

    The 20-year-old Garland, who may be counted on heavily in the postseason, had his second straight poor start since returning from the DL.

    Notes

  • Baldwin and Cal Eldred, who had elbow surgery on Thursday, are both schedule to throw on the side this week.
  • Alomar has 27 career four-hit games.
  • Thomas has 134 RBIs matching his career high set in '96.
  • Cordero played in just 59 games last year after breaking his left wrist.
  • The White Sox have made 117 errors this season. Cleveland has 67.
  • Ramirez's 776th career RBI tied him with Hall of Famer Larry Doby for seventh place on the club list.
  • C.C. Sabathia, the Indians' top pitching prospect, struck out five in five innings in his first start for the U.S. Olympic baseball in a 5-3 win over Australia in a pre-Olympic exhibition game.

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