Indians trail by just 2 1/2 games after win

CHICAGO (AP) -- Aaron Boone hit one of the most dramatic homers in playoff history two years ago, sending the New York Yankees into the World Series.

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Now, after missing 2004 with a knee injury, he's doing his best to help the surging Cleveland Indians make the postseason.

Boone delivered a two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning Monday night as the Indians rallied past the sliding White Sox 7-5, cutting Chicago's once huge lead in the AL Central to 2½ games.

"They're all important now," Boone said after the Indians' 13th victory in the last 14 games and sixth straight. "This was a great game. They came back. We came back. It was a good win. You can't get enough of them."

Boone, who homered earlier 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 off Bobby Jenks to silence an electric crowd of 35,748 at U.S. Cellular Field.

"It was loud," said Boone, who won Game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship Series with his 11th-inning drive off Boston's Tim Wakefield. "Kind of like the Super Bowl before the game. All the fireworks and the music blasting."

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 played their best while the White Sox have lost eight of 11 in what is turning into a colossal collapse.

"We all know it's there," Jenks said of the shrinking lead.

"It's been a race for a few weeks in my opinion," Chicago's Paul Konerko said. "But that doesn't mean we have to lose just because we have lost so much ground or they have gained so much. I think it's a combination of both."

Cleveland also maintained its 1½-game lead for the AL wild card over the Yankees, who beat Baltimore 3-2 on Monday night.

Travis Hafner hit a run-scoring double in the ninth to make it 7-5 and finished 3-for-3 with two walks and three RBI.

"Our goal right now is to make it into the playoffs, any way we can," Hafner said. "This is the kind of game that can get you pretty high for tomorrow or else be tough to come back from."

Carl Everett homered in the seventh off Rafael Betancourt (4-3) to give the White Sox a 5-4 lead. 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.

"I will be concerned if we are one game behind," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. "You get nervous when you don't do anything about it. ... We just have to keep fighting."

Down 5-4, the Indians rallied against Damaso Marte, who relieved with out in the eighth, walked Hafner and gave up a double to Victor Martinez. Marte (3-4) then fanned Ben Broussard for the second out and was replaced by rookie Jenks, whose fastball is nearly 100 mph.

Boone got the count back to 2-2 before hitting a liner to center just past Chicago shortstop Juan Uribe.

Chicago threatened in the bottom half when pinch-hitter Pablo Ozuna led off with a double, but former White Sox reliever Bobby Howry got the next three batters.

Bob Wickman pitched the ninth, getting Konerko to pop to second with two men on to earn his 44th save in 49 chances, including 15 straight.

Hafner hit an RBI double in the first and his 27th homer in the fifth to make it 4-0. Boone added a solo shot in the second and Broussard had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the third off Chicago starter Freddy Garcia.

Chicago finally broke through for four runs in the fifth against Millwood, who entered the game with the AL's lowest ERA at 3.02.

Right fielder Casey Blake dropped Aaron Rowand's leadoff liner for a two-base error and Joe Crede, who just missed a home run in his previous at-bat, hit an RBI single to center. Scott Podsednik followed with a single to make it first-and-third before Tadahito Iguchi delivered an RBI single and advanced to second on the throw.

Millwood got Everett on a popup, but Konerko hit a long liner that a leaping Grady Sizemore just missed in center for a two-run double to tie the game.

Coco Crisp drove a pitch from Neal Cotts to deep left in the seventh, but Podsednik leaped against the fence to pull it down.

Garcia, with one win in his last nine starts, lasted 6 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits and four runs. Millwood went six, surrendering eight hits and four runs.Game notes
The White Sox lead the season series 10-4. ... Indians second baseman Ronnie Belliard missed his fourth straight game with an abdominal injury.