Indians tighten AL Central race

White Sox's once-15-game lead now 2 1/2

Baseball

September 20, 2005

Aaron Boone's clutch hit sent the surging Cleveland Indians to another victory and one game closer to the sliding Chicago White Sox in the American League Central.

Boone delivered a two-run, two-out single in the eighth inning last night, and the visiting Indians cut the White Sox's one-time huge lead to 2 1/2 games by rallying for a 7-5 victory.

Cleveland also maintained its 1 1/2 -game lead for the AL wild card over the New York Yankees, who closed within a half game of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.

Meanwhile, the Houston Astros' lead in the National League wild-card race shrank to a game over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Boone, who homered to help the Indians build a 4-0 lead they couldn't hold, worked his way out of an 0-2 hole and lined a single up the middle to silence an electric crowd of 35,748 at U.S. Cellular Field.

The Indians trailed the White Sox by 15 games after Chicago swept a four-game series at Jacobs Field from July 14-17, and were still 14 behind in early August.

But they've won 13 of their past 14, including six straight, while the White Sox have lost eight of 11.

Carl Everett homered in the seventh to give the White Sox a 5-4 lead. Paul Konerko's two-run, two-out double had capped a four-run fifth off Kevin Millwood - three of the runs were unearned - to tie the game.

The teams play twice more at U.S. Cellular Field before closing the season with three at Jacobs Field.

Again, the Astros' magic number with Roger Clemens on the mound was zero.

Zero as in the runs they scored. Zero as in the number of previous major league victories for the Pittsburgh Pirates' Ian Snell, who outpitched a 340-game winner for his first win.

Snell limited the Astros to three singles over eight innings for a 7-0 victory.

Pittsburgh's fourth consecutive victory and fifth in six games ended Houston's five-game winning streak.

It was the Astros' ninth shutout loss in games started by Clemens and their 17th overall, the most in the majors. Until this season, no pitcher had been shut out as many as eight times in a season since San Diego's Randy Jones in 1978.

"We've just got this demon hanging over our head, and it's a zero," manager Phil Garner said.

Yankees -- Gary Sheffield told the New York Post that he won't be playing in right field again this season because of a strained left thigh.

Red Sox -- Boston called up reliever Craig Hansen, the team's first-round draft choice, from Double-A Portland.

Cardinals -- It took about two hours for NL Central champion St. Louis to sell out all of its playoff games leading up to the World Series.

Reds -- First baseman Sean Casey, who was briefly knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion after a collision Friday, was examined by a spine specialist and cleared to participate in light physical conditioning, but there's no timetable for his return to the lineup.

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