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BAL@CLE: Thome belts a go-ahead two-run homer

CLEVELAND -- Not only did Ryan Flaherty keep pace with Jim Thome, the young infielder one-upped his 41-year-old teammate on Saturday.

One inning after Thome launched a go-ahead, two-run homer, Flaherty turned on a Zach McAllister fastball and sent a majestic, 430-foot drive over the center-field wall to seal Baltimore's 3-1 victory over Cleveland. For the second consecutive night, Thome and Flaherty both homered. On Saturday, the O's designated hitter rounded the bases for the 611st time in his career. Flaherty, 25, circled the bags for the fourth time.

"We were in the locker room earlier today and someone was joking, 'You're only 607 behind him,'" Flaherty said. "Yeah, I guess I'm just trying to keep pace. I'm still only 607 behind him."

Thome, acquired from the Phillies on June 30 for a pair of Minor Leaguers, has enjoyed his homecoming beside Lake Erie. In Friday's 10-2 victory, the five-time All-Star collected three hits, including a solo homer, which moved him past Sammy Sosa for seventh place on the all-time list.

On Saturday, Thome blistered a line drive to the seats in the seventh inning to erase a 1-0 deficit. Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo trotted only a couple of steps toward the wall before realizing the ball would soon belong -- temporarily, at least -- to a fortunate fan. Thome has attempted to retrieve all of his home run balls since his 600th last season. He said he exchanged a couple of autographed baseballs for No. 611.

"He's gotten a lot of people," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "You've got to give credit to Jim. ... [McAllister] went after him with the fastball like he'd done all game, and Jimmy just got him."

Thome is the Indians' all-time home run leader. He clubbed 337 long balls for the organization that selected him in the 13th round of the 1989 Draft. His shot on Saturday put Chris Tillman (2-1, 1.15 ERA) in position for the win. The O's weren't done on offense, though.

In the eighth inning, Flaherty fouled off three consecutive fastballs before depositing the ninth pitch of his at-bat over a cluster of trees and off a back wall in center field. Flaherty couldn't recall ever hitting a ball that far.

"I like it. I like it," Thome said. "He's got a nice swing. ... You see that work that you put in and then it carries over. It's exciting."

Tillman couldn't escape the first inning in his last outing. He departed after 49 pitches, having surrendered seven runs (one earned) in what eventually became a 19-7 loss. On Saturday, he served up a homer on his fourth pitch of the game. That, however, turned out to be misleading.

"Chris has as good of makeup as any of our young pitchers," O's skipper Buck Showalter said. "This is a tough guy. He doesn't scare. The only thing you have to do there is control your emotions about being too ticked off. ... He settled in real nicely."

In delivering his second quality start in his three outings this season, the 24-year-old scattered six hits over 6 2/3 innings, walking one and striking out four. He only flirted with trouble in the fifth, when he allowed consecutive singles to Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan -- the last two hitters in Cleveland's lineup. However, Choo whiffed at an 86-mph slider at his shoulders and Asdrubal Cabrera flied out to end the Tribe's threat.

Tillman's outing nearly went for naught, however. Before Thome's blast, Baltimore struggled to solve McAllister, who exited after a career-high 7 2/3 innings, having allowed three runs on five hits.

"Jimmy woke everything up," Showalter said. "He made a loud noise and got us thinking what could be."

Perhaps Flaherty finds Progressive Field as comfortable as does Thome. The young infielder had two career homers in 54 games prior to Friday's series opener. Now he has two more in two contests in Cleveland. Thome has now tallied 190 homers in his old stomping grounds, the most in Progressive Field history. Saturday's shot was his 22nd at the ballpark as a member of the opposition.

"This place, there's a lot of memories, a lot of great memories," Thome said. "I've had great memories on that side and then great memories coming here as an opponent against them. Anytime you come home, it's very special.

"It's even more special to get the 'W.'"

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