Chilly reception in Ohio

Carlos LeeBob WickmanEllis BurksJose ValentinRoyce Clayton

CLEVELAND-- When Sandy Alomar Jr. returned to Cleveland for the first time last year, the former Indians catcher received a standing ovation from a sellout crowd that brought tears to his eyes.

Kenny Lofton's homecoming at Jacobs Field on Monday was muted by comparison, with polite applause before his first at-bat and scattered booing thereafter.

Only 24,519 turned out to witness a 4-2 victory by the Indians, who dealt Mark Buehrle his first loss of the season.

Part of it was due to the brutal weather conditions, and part of it was due to growing fan apathy in Cleveland.

"I wish more people were there to appreciate what Kenny did for this city and this franchise," Alomar said.

Lofton, who went 1-for-3, didn't seem to care about the general lack of interest in his return.

"I think people look at it as `What have you done for me lately?'" Lofton said. "That's how a lot of fans are. Some of them are good fans, and some aren't. They forget about yesterday. That's just part of the game. You deal with it and go on."

The Sox lost for only the third time in 13 games, thanks in part to two mistakes by Buehrle (4-1) during an otherwise impressive seven-inning stint. Buehrle gave up a two-run homer to Travis Fryman in the fourth on a 3-0 pitch, and after issuing a leadoff walk in the fifth, served up a two-run homer to Russell Branyan on an 0-2 offering.

"Two mistakes the entire ballgame," manager Jerry Manuel said. "I'll take that every time."

After being shut out by Danys Baez (3-1) and Ricardo Rincon over the first six innings, the Sox finally got on the board in the seventh on Jose Valentin's two-run blast off the right-field foul pole. It was Valentin's third straight game with a homer, the second such streak of his career.

The Sox threatened again in the eighth with two on and two out against Paul Shuey, but Frank Thomas struck out swinging. Carlos Lee came to the plate as the tying run in the ninth but struck out against closer Bob Wickman to end it.

The game-time temperature at Jacobs Field was 40 degrees and dropping, with a windchill factor of 33. Royce Clayton stuck his bat next to a heat lamp in the Sox dugout before the game, but nothing could heat up the Sox's bats on this night.

"I'm just happy first base is near the dugout," Paul Konerko said.

Lofton's homecoming was the media focus before the game, after he'd terrorized the Indians last week at Comiskey Park, going 6-for-14 with six runs.

"If he plays like he did at home against them, I'll take that," Manuel said beforehand.

But Lofton was no factor. He was caught stealing on a disputed call in the first and dropped a long fly off Ellis Burks' bat in the fourth on a double. Clayton's relay nailed Omar Vizquel at the plate, but Fryman homered two batters later to give Cleveland the lead for keeps.

The Sox and Indians are now tied for second at 12-7, one game behind Minnesota.

"I think it's between us, Minnesota and Cleveland," Buehrle said. "It's going to be all three all year battling for first place. I don't see one team running away."

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