And just as quickly as the White Sox

By Tom Withers Associated Press Published:

And just as quickly as the White Sox left town, so did all the doubts about whether or not they're a legitimate team.

"We know we can play with anyone in this league," said Chicago third baseman Tony Graffanino.

Graffanino and Jeff Abbott drove in three runs apiece as the White Sox opened a five-game lead over the second-place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central with a soggy 11-4 victory Wednesday night.

Chicago waited through a two-hour, seven-minute rain delay before winning for the 12th time in 14 games to become the AL's first 40-win team.

"I wouldn't know what the mood is in that clubhouse," White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said as his team packed for New York "It's a good thing for our young team to have a five-game lead in the Central over a powerhouse like Cleveland."

The Sox have won 10 of 11 on the road and became just the fourth team to sweep a series at the Jake since it opened in 1994.

Chicago's last sweep here came on Oct. 1-3, 1993, the final games in the history of Cleveland Stadium.

"It was a good series for us," Manuel said. "We know they weren't at full strength and that could have played a part in it. But we came in here and showed we could play good baseball and win."

Magglio Ordonez and Paul Konerko drove in two runs apiece as the White Sox scored 10 runs in the first two innings before the rain came.

Rookie Kevin Beirne (1-0) pitched a scoreless 3 2/3 innings for his first major league win. Beirne and two other relievers shut out the Indians on two hits for the final seven innings.

It won't get any easier for the White Sox. Chicago will play four games with the Yankees before returning home for four with the Indians and three more with the defending World Series champions.

"We jumped over the first hurdle and now we have a few more to go," Manuel said.

David Justice hit a three-run homer and Jim Thome had a solo shot for Cleveland, which dropped to 15-15 at home.

The Indians, who are now farther out of first then they've been since '93, are even starting to hear it from their loyal fans. In the fifth inning, Enrique Wilson forgot there was only one out and got doubled up at first when he went to second on an infield pop.

"This was a big series, but at the same time there are 100 ballgames to play," Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. "What this means is they have a five-game lead and we have to play hard to catch up. We've got to get the troops back together and play."

The lone bright spot for Cleveland was right-hander Willie Martinez, who pitched three strong innings in his major league debut.

Trailing 10-4 after two innings, Cleveland's players were probably praying for a rainout during the long delay. After all, it's been raining on them all year.

Cleveland's pitching staff is in shambles because of injuries, forcing Charlie Manuel to start rookie Jim Brower (1-1) in the team's most important game to date this season.

"After the rain delay, and with that big margin to make up, the adrenalin just was not there," Sandy Alomar said.

If anyone needed further proof the White Sox are legitimate, they've got it now.

"I think those two games alone have probably changed a lot of people's minds," said reliever Bob Howry. "We have to continue on the next 12 days and continue to do well. As long as we finish well these next 12 days, I think everybody will realize this team is for real."

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