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"Columbus took a chance, too, didn't he?" Indians

Associated Press Published: September 6, 2000 12:00 AM

"Columbus took a chance, too, didn't he?" Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. "Sandy got a good lead there and made it."

It was Alomar's first stolen base since June 26, 1996.

"Everything is going right, right now," Lofton said after the Indians earned their 34th comeback victory _ and fourth when trailing by four or more runs.

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Unlike the last five seasons, when Cleveland easily won the AL Central, the Indians find themselves fighting for their playoff lives down the stretch. They trail first-place Chicago by 6 1/2 games in the division, but they've gone 21-10 since Aug. 2 to move a season-high 13 games over .500 (74-61) and open a two-game lead in the AL wild-card race.

"We are playing great baseball right now and we know we have to keep doing it," second baseman Roberto Alomar said. "This win was sweet. Getting to the playoffs is sweeter."

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Two months ago, going to the playoffs appeared to be a long shot for the Indians, who are 22-7 at Jacobs Field since July 2.

Jason Bere (5-2) overcame early inconsistency and allowed four runs and four hits over six innings. He struck out seven and walked four.

Steve Karsay pitched two scoreless innings, and Bob Wickman worked the ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances with the Indians.

Lofton's two-run, bases-loaded single off reliever Tony Fiore (1-1) broke a 4-4 tie in the sixth.

"All I wanted to do there was put the ball in play," Lofton said. "He threw a sinker away and I went with it and hit it to left."

A wild pitch by Fiore later in the inning scored Sandy Alomar from third base to make it 7-4.

Bere struck out the first two batters he faced in the first, walked the next two, then yielded a first-pitch, three-run homer to Greg Vaughn, his 25th.

"I'm not so much upset with the homer as the two walks before it," Bere said.

Vaughn entered the game in a 12-for-75 (.160) slump.

"The way I've been going I didn't care where the ball went as long as Kenny (Lofton) didn't make another highlight catch," Vaughn said. "I said, 'Just get out. Just do something for me.'"

Tampa Bay, which found out before the game that Gerald Williams and four others were being suspended for last week's brawls against Boston, made it 4-0 in the third when Vinny Castilla doubled home Fred McGriff.

"When you get ahead you have to keep adding on in this league and we didn't do it," Devil Rays manager Larry Rothschild said. "We gave them a chance to come back."

Roberto Alomar started Cleveland's comeback with a fourth-inning single for the first hit off Devil Rays starter Paul Wilson. Alomar scored on a double to right by Manny Ramirez. After Jim Thome walked, David Segui singled in Ramirez to make it 4-2.

A two-base throwing error by shortstop Felix Martinez in the Cleveland fifth on a grounder hit by Omar Vizquel enabled Sandy Alomar to score from second and make it 4-3. Alomar had moved into scoring position with his surprising steal.

Thome hit Fiore's second pitch of the sixth into the right-field stands for his 33rd homer to tie it at 4.

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