Mauer belts 13th HR as Twins top Cubs
Joe Mauer and the Minnesota Twins felt loved at Wrigley Field while the home fans took out their frustrations on one of their own, mistake-prone right fielder Milton Bradley.
Mauer, batting .413 after getting two more hits in Friday's 7-4 victory over Chicago, heard "M-V-P!" chants after hitting a two-run homer in the third inning and was greeted by "Let's go, Mauer!" cheers before delivering a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Cubs fans are known for traveling well and taking over road ballparks, but rarely does a visiting player get such respect at Wrigley.
"We hear that everywhere because he's a rock star, a teen idol, the package," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of the two-time AL batting champion, who leads AL catchers in All-Star voting.
Despite missing all of April with a back injury, Mauer matched his single-season high with his 13th home run. Friday's shot was only his second homer in 16 games following a torrid three-week stretch after he came off the disabled list.
"That was pretty neat, coming in a special place," he said of the cheers and chants. "There were a lot of Twins fans here."
Twins fans in the crowd of 41,509 probably weren't the ones giving Bradley the business for his many misdeeds.
He lost Jason Kubel's pop-up in the sun for a single, couldn't catch Michael Cuddyer's RBI bloop double, made a baserunning blunder and, most egregiously, flipped the ball into the stands after catching Mauer's one-out sac fly.
Fans even booed Bradley when he was robbed of a hit on a diving catch by left fielder Delmon Young.
It wasn't the first time the home crowd has been rough on Bradley, a $30 million free-agent acquisition who has batted .224 while battling injuries and feuding with umpires.
"That's life," Bradley said. "These people have high expectations. I have high expectations for myself. I never made a mistake like that (losing track of the outs) in my life. Sue me."
With Nick Punto on third, Brendan Harris on first, Bradley caught Mauer's fly, posed for several seconds and threw the baseball into the seats. As Punto scored easily to make it 6-3, Harris was awarded third base on Bradley's error as boos rained down from every section of the ballpark.
"It didn't cost us a run but you've got to be in the game, you've got to know how many outs there are," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Do we need to go over math? One ... two ... three ... I don't know what else to say. I'm sure he's somewhat embarrassed by it."
Then again, maybe not.
"I wasn't embarrassed," Bradley said. "I've done a whole lot of (other) things to be embarrassed about. The run was going to score and a fan got a souvenir. I just made a mistake. I guess I'll be in the bloopers."
Bradley actually had been cheered in the sixth when his two-run double finally got Chicago on the board against Kevin Slowey, who had retired 15 of the first 16 batters.
Slowey (9-2) ended up allowing three runs on four hits in six innings while striking out 10 and walking one to become the majors' second nine-game winner.
"They've shown themselves to be pretty aggressive, really up there swinging," Slowey said. "We had a good game plan. I don't think I shook off Joe two times."
After scoring at a five-runs-per-game clip through May 16 in building a 21-14 record, the Cubs have averaged only three runs in going 8-15. A desperate Piniella shook up his batting order Friday but the Cubs still managed only six hits.
"We're pressing," Bradley said. "We were supposed to just run away with the division. We talked about it today. Just have fun. Relax."
Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save, Kubel homered and Harris had three hits for the Twins, who won for just the 10th time in 30 road games.
Cubs starter Randy Wells (0-3) allowed four runs in 3 2-3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.
Right-hander Rich Harden is scheduled to come off the DL and start for the Cubs on Saturday. He's been out with a back strain. ... Slowey is 6-1 with a 2.58 ERA in nine career interleague starts. ... Toronto's Roy Halladay (10-1) is the other pitcher with at least nine wins. ... The Cubs are 84-89 in interleague play. ... The Twins are 124-90 all-time against NL clubs, one of three teams with 120 or more interleague victories. ... Punto had two hits in his return from the DL.