CLEVELAND-- Todd Ritchie hasn't been with the White Sox long, but he already has perfected the role Cal Eldred assumed for the division-winning team in 2000.
Like the former Sox right-hander, Ritchie is the veteran presence of a very young rotation--and a bona fide Cleveland killer to boot.
Ritchie (2-1) threw eight innings of three-hit ball, struck out eight and allowed only a Jim Thome homer in the second inning. After Travis Fryman followed Thome's shot with a line single, Ritchie didn't give up another hit for 20 batters until Milton Bradley singled with one out in the eighth.
With his fifth straight impressive start, Ritchie reduced his earned-run average to 2.67 and is limiting opposing batters to a meager .197 average. In three career starts against Cleveland, he's even better, with a 3-0 record and 1.32 ERA.
"If I knew exactly what it was, I'd bottle it and sell it," Ritchie said.
Ritchie and Mark Buehrle have been the only consistent Sox starters, but Jim Parque soon will arrive to try and add help. The left-hander was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte after Tuesday's victory, while Lorenzo Barcelo was sent down.
Manager Jerry Manuel said Parque will be available in the bullpen Wednesday, though it's undecided whether Parque will replace Jon Rauch for Friday's start in Oakland.
Flame-throwing Cleveland ace Bartolo Colon kept the Sox under wraps for the first three innings Tuesday, but Paul Konerko walked with two outs in the fourth and advanced on Jose Valentin's single. Carlos Lee took an outside pitch and plunked an opposite-field double to tie the game, and when a lazy throw by right fielder Matt Lawton escaped the cutoff man, Valentin alertly scampered around third to make it 2-1.
The Sox added three runs in the seventh and eighth, and Keith Foulke entered in the ninth after Ritchie reached 112 pitches. After allowing a pair of singles, Foulke walked Thome to load the bases with one out, but Fryman grounded into a double play to end the threat.
The Sox will throw struggling young pitchers Dan Wright and Jon Garland in the final two games of the series. With three inexperienced pitchers in the rotation, is there less margin of error in games started by Ritchie and Buehrle?
"Not really," Buehrle said. "I think they're going to go out there and show that they're capable of getting the job done. I'm as young as they are."
Like Eldred, the focal point of the Sox staff in 2000, Ritchie prefers to lead by example.
"If somebody has a question and I might be able to help them, they're more than welcome to come talk to me," Ritchie said. "I'm not the type of guy who's going to go up and start talking. I always hated people coming up and telling me what they felt, unless I asked them. I'm not going to force myself on anybody.
"It all comes with maturity and experience. That's all the young guys need. It'll come."
WHITE SOX 5, INDIANS 1