CLEVELAND -- Excuse Indians fans if the sight of the team's head trainer jogging toward C.C. Sabathia on the mound made them nervous.
It wasn't until Lonnie Soloff handed Sabathia a tongue depressor to clean the mud from his cleats that they could breathe.
Sabathia, activated from the disabled list before the game, made a strong return after injuring himself on opening night to lead the Cleveland Indians over the Chicago White Sox 7-1 on a rainy Tuesday.
"He's a guy that's very well respected on the team -- the ace of the staff," said Travis Hafner, who drove in four runs. "It's a huge pick-me-up for everybody to have him back on the mound."
Sabathia's return came at an opportune time for Cleveland, which ended its three-game losing streak and split the two-game series with Chicago.
"I hope that they felt when I was taking the ball today that we were going to win the game," Sabathia said. "That's the type of pitcher I want to be."
Sabathia (1-0) also helped stop Chicago's winning streak at four. The White Sox had won eight in a row at Jacobs Field.
The big left-hander allowed one run in five innings and got out of a bases-loaded jam in his first appearance since leaving the April 2 opener against Chicago with a strained oblique muscle.
Hafner, who hit a grand slam Monday night, hit a three-run homer in the first inning and added an RBI single.
White Sox slugger Jim Thome got a day off for the first time this season, a night after getting booed in his return to Cleveland. Scott Podsednik also sat after matching a club record with four steals Monday night.
Mark Buehrle (3-2) gave up seven runs and 13 hits with three walks in 5 2/3 innings -- easily his worst outing this season and his second straight loss.
"It doesn't get worse than that," Buehrle said. "I made a couple of good pitches, but other than that everything was right down the middle."
Buehrle, who was 3-0 with a 1.28 ERA in his last six starts in Cleveland, fell to 7-8 against the Indians.
"It was a weird game for him," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He always throws strikes and he's always around the plate. He just had a bad outing against the wrong people. They will take advantage of your mistakes."
Sabathia helped keep the Indians from dipping below .500 for the first time since opening night, when he allowed three runs and left the game in the third. The Indians went on to lose that game and have struggled without their No. 1 starter.
Sabathia gave up five hits and four walks, striking out two, and improved to 9-3 against the White Sox.
He retired the first three batters, then put runners on in each of the next four innings. But the only real trouble he got into was in the fifth, when he loaded the bases with two outs as rain started to fall.
Sabathia then retired Alex Cintron on a grounder to the mound.
Chicago stranded 14 runners for the second straight game.
"We left a lot of people on base," Guillen said. "We didn't do what we do best -- clutch hitting. We had chances in every inning to score."
Sabathia was aided by Grady Sizemore's diving catch of Crede's drive to the warning track in center field to lead off the fourth inning.
"The best part of it probably was when he got up and he had dirt on his face and didn't wipe it off. It made him look tough," Hafner said, teasing.
The rain came down harder after Sabathia left and didn't slow to a drizzle until the ninth.
Martinez, Perez and Jhonny Peralta drove in runs in the fifth and sixth to give the Indians bullpen a comfortable lead.
"Our guys did a really good job against Buehrle," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "They sprayed the ball around the field and took advantage of opportunities. But it starts with C.C. and the way he threw the ball today."
- Chicago OF Jermaine Dye returned to the lineup Tuesday, but was pulled in the third inning after reaggravating a sore left calf. "It's just tight," Guillen said. "I don't want to take the chance of losing him for a few weeks instead of a few days."
- Martinez has reached base safely in 42 straight games.
- White Sox C Chris Widger was hit in the head with a bat that slipped out of 2B Ronnie Belliard's hand on the backswing in the fifth. Widger was examined by a trainer on the field and doubled in the sixth. He then left the game with dizziness and an upset stomach.
- Perez is hitting .375 (12-for-32) with three homers and 13 RBI against lefties.