"I'd probably shout 'Hallelujah,"' Chicago White Sox manager Manuel said when asked how he would have reacted in spring training if he was told he would have an 8 1/2-game lead over the Cleveland Indians in mid-June. "But it's still June and that's the thing we have to be real careful of."
Herbert Perry and Mark Johnson each drove in two runs, supporting rookie Kip Wells _ who pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings _ to lead the White Sox to a 6-1 victory over the Indians on Monday night.
Perry hit a solo homer and an RBI single, and Johnson added a two-run double.
"I still think there's a lot of time left in the season," said Manuel, 200-192 as the White Sox skipper. "You never know how a young team is going to react. I think the success we've had is strengthening our will to win."
The White Sox returned home after winning three games in Cleveland and four at Yankee Stadium to complete a perfect seven-game road trip.
"Baseball is a momentum sport," Perry said. "Right now, this team is in a giant vacuum and we're just letting things go. We're not thinking about anything else. We're just playing baseball."
The eight-game win streak is Chicago's longest since winning eight in a row May 17-26, 1996. It was the Indians' seventh loss in eight games.
"Too many guys are putting pressure on themselves," Cleveland's Omar Vizquel said. "They go up there thinking they have to do something."
A standing room only crowd of 43,062, the fifth sellout of the season, gave the White Sox, who have the best record in the majors, a standing ovation as they took the field to start the game.
"That was very moving," Manuel said. "It was a great moment for the team and for me to be received in such a way."
"The energy is incredible when you have 40,000 people behind you," Perry said.
Wells (4-5), whose pregame preparations included watching the movie "Slapshot" in the clubhouse, gave up four hits, including three doubles, and one walk. He struck out six in his best outing of the season and won for the first time since May 23.
"This was more important for me to win because it's tough seeing everyone else succeed and not do my part," Wells said. "I know I have to pitch well to keep my job. I want to build off of this and not be another one-night success."
Perry homered leading off a three-run fifth against Bartolo Colon (6-4) to spark the White Sox, who have won 14 of 15 games.
Two outs later, Jose Valentin singled and scored on Frank Thomas' double. Magglio Ordonez singled to drive in Thomas, making it 3-0.
Chris Singleton walked to start the sixth and Carlos Lee singled to chase Colon. Perry, who made his major league debut with the Indians, greeted Brian Williams with a single to score Singleton.
Colon, who lost for the first time in nine career starts to the White Sox, gave up four runs on nine hits and one walk in five plus innings. He struck out seven.
"Any time Bartolo pitches, I feel like we have a pretty good chance of winning," Cleveland manager Charlie Manuel said. "We need to get some things going our way."
The Indians had runners at second and third with two out in the seventh after an infield single by David Justice and a double by Travis Fryman. Wells hit Russell Branyan to load the bases and was pulled. Bob Howry got Richie Sexson to ground out to second to end the threat.