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After hearing a loud round of boos before his first at-bat Monday, Jim Thome made a convincing statement that could carry through a memorable season.
Thome resumed his slugging pursuit with two home runs to increase his career total to 450 and lift the White Sox to a comfortable 11-0 victory over the Indians.
"You try to lock in, do what you've got to do and don't let a lot of the distractions bother you," the former Indian said in response to the persistent heckling.
Thome's homer ignited a four-run first and quieted many Cleveland fans who had expressed their bitterness over Thome's departure as a free agent 31/2 years ago.
It also allowed Javier Vazquez (6-3) to pitch without stress through six innings and enabled manager Ozzie Guillen to pull four starting position players as the Sox (33-17) moved within 11/2 games of Detroit in the AL Central.
After going 19 at-bats without a home run and hitting only one in his previous 32, Thome resumed a pace that could put him at the top of the franchise's single-season list in his first year with the Sox.
While most of the national attention on sluggers has focused on Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols, Thome has put together an admirable comeback after missing most of last season with elbow and back injuries.
Thome increased his season total to 20. That puts him on a pace to hit 64 home runs, which would easily surpass Albert Belle's Sox record of 49 in 1998. It also would give Thome the American League record, currently 61 by the Yankees' Roger Maris in 1961.
Thome's production and health have been enhanced by sticking exclusively to a designated-hitter role that allows him more time to prepare for each at-bat.
"From Day One, I tried to understand my role and take my role seriously," Thome said. "When you have a couple of bad at-bats, the DH role gives you the opportunity to go look at some film or go down in the cage and work on something that you may not feel is right.
"That's been a positive from what the DH has brought, for sure."
Surprisingly, Thome said he felt uncomfortable before his first at-bat, and it wasn't because of the booing.
"I wasn't expecting an 0-2 pitch where it was at," Thome said of a curve that he smacked off left-hander Cliff Lee. "I was fortunate to get that pitch. Our offense after that exploded, and it was great and showed a lot about our club, preparing and having good at-bats."
Thome launched a 414-foot shot off reliever Guillermo Mota that barely cleared the center-field wall in the sixth. The usually calm Thome pumped his fist as he moved into 30th place on the all-time list.
"Whenever you [reach] a milestone and do it here, it's always special," Thome said. "I played a lot of years here, and it adds to the list of wonderful things that have happened here."
The home runs increased Thome's Jacobs Field total to 178, the most by a player in the stadium's history. But he didn't seek revenge.
"Jim is too classy of a guy to get into that back-and-forth stuff," said teammate Paul Konerko, who hit a solo homer in the third. "He's going to hit home runs no matter where he is."
Guillen believes Thome's homers spoke volumes for him.
"He has nothing against the Cleveland Indians fans, players or the organization," Guillen said. "But it feels good when they boo you and you respond that way."