The way he pitched Wednesday night, Dwight Sr.,

By Tom Withers Associated Press Published:

The way he pitched Wednesday night, Dwight Sr., almost deserved a ride too.

After warming up in the bullpen with his 13-year-old son standing next to him, Gooden pitched seven solid innings for his first win since May 18 and Manny Ramirez raised his major league-leading RBI total to 106 in Cleveland's 7-2 win over the Detroit Tigers.

Gooden (3-3) made the most of his first start since July 2, limiting the Tigers to five hits. The right-hander hasn't been happy pitching in relief and was further miffed last week when he lost a chance to start in New York when Hargrove changed his mind.

But mixing a 94 mph fastball with a nasty curve, Gooden got his first win in 13 appearances _ four in relief _ struck out a season-high eight, and walked two.

"Doc was absolutely outstanding," said Indians manager Mike Hargrove. "He was absolutely golden tonight. It's good to see good things happen to good people."

For the past two weeks, Gooden has been coming to Jacobs Field fearing Hargrove might want to talk to him. He has been afraid his days in Cleveland are numbered, and that he might be on the trading block with the clock ticking down to Saturday's midnight deadline.

But after his performance Wednesday night, the only trip Gooden might be making is back to the starting rotation.

"It was important because this has been the strangest year of my career," said Gooden, who has bounced between being the Indians' No. 5 starter and a long reliever. "It was good to come out of it with a win. The thing is since '96 with the Yankees, my health is the best it has been. I've been inconsistent, too many walks. I'm still not sure where I'm at in my career after all that's happened."

Gooden, who earlier in the week shot down a report saying he had requested a trade, hopes he stays with Indians. At this point in his career he knows he may not have many more chances to win a World Series, and if he's dealt, it probably won't be to a contending team.

"Hopefully, I can stay here and contribute," he said.

Before the game, Gooden's son surprised him by joining him for warmups. As Gooden rocked into his motion, there was Dwight Jr., leaning against the back wall watching his dad work.

"I guess he just wanted to see," Gooden said of the youngster, who served as the Indians' bat boy and was carried off the field after the game by pitcher Dave Burba.

"It was special to me because it brings back a lot of memories of what my father did with me," Gooden said. "He never played professional ball but he was a semi-pro coach. When I was three years old, I followed him around and got to see his games. So this was really special."

Ramirez returned to the lineup after missing one game with a bruised left knee, and sporting a new orange hairdo, homered off Brian Moehler (8-10) and had a pair of RBI doubles as the Indians completed a three-game sweep.

Jim Thome also homered for Cleveland, which entered the series in a five-game losing skid after being swept by the Yankees last weekend. But after holding a players-only meeting Monday, the Indians took out their frustration on the Tigers, outscoring them 27-10.

"I think it was important for us to hopefully restate our position a little bit," Hargrove said. "

Karim Garcia hit a two-run homer for Detroit, which made two more errors following a four-error night Tuesday.

With Cleveland leading 3-0 in the third, Ramirez, who entered the game in a 3-for-27 slump, hit his 27th homer. Thome followed with No. 17, a shot to left for his second homer in two days.

After a two-out walk to Tony Clark in the fourth, Garcia hit his sixth homer to make it 5-2. But Ramirez got the two runs back in the bottom of the inning with a two-run double.

"I will say this," said Garcia. "In this series, Cleveland's pitching was better than a team like Boston. They pitched very well and when they do that, they are really tough to beat."

Following a 14-5 rout on Tuesday when they got 19 hits, the Indians picked right up in the first by scoring three runs off Moehler on doubles by Jacob Cruz and Ramirez and rookie Russell Branyan's RBI single.

Notes: The Indians are now 30-7 vs. Detroit at Jacobs Field, which opened in '94. ... Clark extended his career-high hitting streak to 16 games with an infield single in the seventh, although TV replays showed Roberto Alomar had thrown him out following a fabulous diving stop on the grass behind second. ... Cleveland's Richie Sexson, who frequently changes his hair style and color, gave a dye job to Ramirez and Enrique Wilson on Wednesday.

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