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Hafner's two-run shot puts the Tribe on top

CLEVELAND -- The first one landed with a thud, producing an audible "clank." The second one followed moments later, striking with a similar, thunderous thump.

As Chicago's third home run of the eighth inning soared toward the left-field bleachers, the sparse Progressive Field crowd let out a collective groan in anticipation of the oncoming sound of cowhide connecting with metal seating. Instead, this long ball found a walkway tunnel.

The trio of taters off reliever Chad Durbin plated four runs, providing the White Sox an insurmountable lead during their 8-4 victory on Wednesday. It also forced observers to file the pitching efforts of Ubaldo Jimenez and Mark Buehrle into their memory banks.

Buehrle bested Jimenez as the South Siders (76-79) gained ground in the dash for division runner-up, but the Indians (76-78) were offered another glimpse of the havoc their prized non-waiver Trade Deadline acquisition can wreak on opposing lineups.

"Ubaldo threw the ball well," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He had a good fastball. He was able to keep it in the mid-90s the whole game, and he showed probably the best slider he has shown so far."

Jimenez's arsenal was on full display early in Wednesday's contest, as he set down the White Sox in order in each of the first three innings.

He surrendered four runs and six hits in seven innings, exiting after a three-run seventh inflated his pitch count to 113 and gave Chicago a 4-2 advantage. Despite departing on the short end, the right-hander hurled at least six frames for the sixth straight start. He has posted a 3.20 ERA over that span.

Wednesday's matchup was a fair measuring stick for Jimenez, for whom the Indians parted with their top two pitching prospects in late July. Buehrle has baffled American League Central hitters for more than a decade. Jimenez has yet to find consistent success against his newfound foes, though the Indians hope his recent success will carry over into 2012.

"I've seen the reason we've brought him in before," Acta said. "We just have started seeing results here over the last [six] starts."

Buehrle, who entered the game 1-2 with a 7.33 ERA in three outings against the Tribe this season, stymied the Indians for most of the night. In his six strong innings, he induced 10 outs via ground balls and benefited from a slew of Tribe baserunning gaffes.

Shortstop Jason Donald was picked off in the fifth inning after leading off the frame with a walk. After reaching on a double in the sixth, second baseman Jason Kipnis was thrown out while trying to scamper to third on a grounder by first baseman Carlos Santana.

Travis Hafner supplied the Indians with a brief lead in the bottom of the sixth. The designated hitter skied a towering pop fly that settled just beyond the right-field wall for a two-run homer.

"I hit it good, it was just high," Hafner said. "I wasn't quite sure if it would be out or not. I knew it would be close, but it got out, so I was happy."

That was the only damage Cleveland inflicted upon Buehrle.

"He did what he does best," Acta said. "He tries to keep guys off balance, and he did that very well today."

The White Sox evened the score in the seventh on an RBI double by Brent Morel, who lined a pitch off the left-field wall to plate right fielder Dayan Viciedo. Three batters later, left fielder Alejandro De Aza delivered a two-out, two-run single to provide Chicago with a 4-2 advantage as the White Sox capitalized on a pair of Jimenez walks.

"I fell behind in the count right away," Jimenez said. "They took advantage. If I wouldn't have walked those guys, then I wouldn't have had to face De Aza."

Acta admitted he left Jimenez in the game, despite a high pitch total, to challenge the lanky right-hander and also to avoid burning through the club's overworked bullpen.

The three-run outburst in the seventh cast a shadow on what was otherwise another promising performance by Jimenez.

"I think tonight was probably the best game that I've pitched [since the trade]," Jimenez said. "I felt really good today."

The wheels came off in the eighth, when Durbin served up 1,182 feet worth of home runs to Alexei Ramirez, Alex Rios and Morel. It was the second time in his career that the righty reliever had yielded three dingers in an inning, the first occurrence on June 23, 2000.

But the trio of blasts could not take away from what the Indians learned on Wednesday. The Indians did not place most of their eggs in Durbin's basket. They have plenty invested in Jimenez, who they hope can anchor their rotation for at least the next two years.

"He's shown here what he can do," Acta said. "Tonight was another example." Comments