Sandy Alomar hit a three-run homer in Cleveland's

By Alan Robinson Associated Press Published:

Sandy Alomar hit a three-run homer in Cleveland's four-run first inning and the Pirates never caught up as the Indians won 7-5 Monday in their first regular-season game.

"It was exciting _ and it became a whole lot more exciting than I wanted it to be," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said after Jose Mesa got the final out with the potential tying run on second base.

The Indians and Pirates have coexisted 130 miles apart since Cleveland joined the AL in 1901, 14 years after the Pirates became part of the NL, yet had never played a meaningful game, not even in the World Series.

Interleague play changed that as 45,298 showed up, the Pirates' fourth sellout this season and their first in advance since their 1989 opener against the Mets. Thousands of Indians fans bought their tickets months ago, after Cleveland sold out its regular season in advance and well before the Pirates expected to be in a division race in September.

"It was a great atmosphere, but it was different," Pirates manager Gene Lamont said. "You don't see an atmosphere like that even in the World Series, where they're always pulling for the home team."

Indians fans drowned out the Pirates fans early, especially after their team built leads of 4-0 and 6-2 against Steve Cooke (9-14), who failed to last past the third inning for fourth time in his last eight starts.

"In the first and second innings, I thought we were playing in Cleveland," Pirates center fielder Jermaine Allensworth said.

But Pittsburgh rooters seemed to take umbrage at the Indians' fans invasion of their home turf, much as Steelers' fans did when the Browns infiltrated Three Rivers Stadium, and they had the vocal edge by the late innings.

"It was fun, and it could be a great rivalry if it continues," Indians starter Chad Ogea said.

The Indians never gave up their lead after third baseman Joe Randa, the only ex-American Leaguer in the Pittsburgh lineup, threw wildly on leadoff batter Omar Vizquel's grounder, Kevin Seitzer doubled and Manny Ramirez hit a run-scoring grounder.

After David Justice walked, Alomar hit a drive off the canvas roof of the restaurant behind the left field wall for his 17th homer, and Cooke once again found himself trailing in the first.

Cooke has surrendered 31 first-inning runs in his 28 starts, and might be tiring down the stretch in his first full major-league season since 1994. He missed most of the last two seasons with injuries.

"You can't discount that, but the times before when you thought Steve Cooke might not do it, all of a sudden he's taking you into the seventh, eighth and ninth innings," Lamont said.

The Pirates lost their sixth in eight games, but remained 2 1/2 games back in the NL Central as division-leading Houston lost its fifth in a row, 3-2 to Milwaukee. Cleveland stayed 3 1/2 games up on the Brewers in the AL Central.

Pittsburgh got two runs back in the first on Al Martin's RBI double and Randa's sacrifice fly off Ogea (6-8). The right-hander was making his first start since going on the disabled list June 24 with a strained ligament in his right elbow.

Ogea, a loser in his previous five starts, won for the first time since May 23 despite giving up six hits and four runs in five innings.

"It felt like my first start in the big leagues," Ogea said.

Albie Lopez, who also came off the disabled list Monday, followed by yielding one run in 2 1/3 innings before Mike Jackson came on with two on and one out in the eighth to strike out Jose Guillen and Turner Ward.

Mesa pitched the ninth for his 10th save, retiring Eddie Williams on a fly ball with runners on second and third to end it.

Before that, Marquis Grissom had made it 6-2 with a two-run double in the third, and Ramirez added his 23rd homer, a solo shot in the fourth off rookie Jason Johnson.

Williams and Tony Womack had RBI singles for the Pirates, who have lost four of their last five at home. Guillen tripled and scored on Abraham Nunez's sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Notes: Johnson has allowed homers to the opposing No. 3 hitter in each

of his two major league appearances. He yielded a three-run shot to the

Dodgers' Mike Piazza on the first pitch he threw in the majors on

Wednesday. ... Shortstop Shawon Dunston, acquired Sunday night from the

Cubs, will not report to Pittsburgh until Tuesday. Utilityman Bip

Roberts, picked up Sunday by the Indians, was in uniform but did not

play. ... Matt Williams extended his career-high hitting streak to 18

(27-for-75, .360) with a single in the seventh. ... Grissom, formerly of

the Braves, went 3-for-4 to raise his average against Pittsburgh to .451

(23-of-51) over the last two seasons. ... Of the 15 Pirates who played

in an exhibition game in Cleveland on March 30, 1996, only two remain:

Al Martin and Jason Kendall.

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