Lee’s return ruined as Twins sweep Cubs

By The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS – Brad Radke looked all but finished in May. His breaking ball wasn’t breaking and his fastball was lifeless, rendering a normally outstanding changeup moot.

He’s had a renaissance in June, and the Minnesota Twins are rolling right along with him.

Radke threw seven shutout innings to spoil Derrek Lee’s return from two months on the disabled list, and the Twins capped a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs with an 8-1 victory Sunday.

“I’ve just been making a little better quality pitches when I need to,” said Radke, who scattered seven hits and struck out six. “Changing speeds on my fastball has been working for me.”

In his first 10 starts, Radke was 4-6 with a 7.44 ERA and allowed 14 homers. He has gone 2-1 with a 2.39 ERA and given up just three long balls in his last six starts.

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    Torii Hunter and Luis Rodriguez homered for the streaking Twins, who have won four in a row and 14 of 16.

    Radke (6-7) has been an integral part of turning around the Twins, who are a season-best four games above .500 (39-35) just more than two weeks after a fourth straight loss dropped them to 25-33 on June 7.

    But the Tigers and White Sox have been just as good. The Twins trail first-place Detroit by 11 games in the AL Central.

    “We’ve been putting some wins together,” Radke said. “The only bad thing about it is the other two teams in front of us are winning, too. Hopefully we’ll keep winning and they’ll start losing some time here.”

    Sean Marshall (4-6) lasted just 4 2-3 innings for Chicago, but he didn’t get much help from his offense or defense.

    The Cubs committed three errors and misplayed two other balls in the field. After getting shut out Saturday, they didn’t score until the ninth inning in this one and lost for the 10th time in 12 games.

    “We have to right the ship somehow,” ex-Twin Jacque Jones said. “It is getting old. It isn’t one guy, it is everybody. We have to do something to get this thing together.”

    Lee, who hit .335 with 46 home runs and 107 RBIs in 2005, missed 59 games after breaking his wrist on April 19. The Cubs went 9-5 with Lee in the lineup, but were just 19-40 without him.

    The plan was for Lee to play two games at Triple-A Iowa before joining the club on Monday. But after Freddie Bynum and Tony Womack were injured Saturday night, Lee made the four-hour drive from Des Moines to Minneapolis after going 1-for-4 with an RBI single in his lone rehab appearance on Saturday night.

    Lee got a raucous ovation from thousands of Cubs fans in attendance when he stepped to the plate in the first inning Sunday.

    After Juan Pierre and Todd Walker opened the game with singles, it was exactly what manager Dusty Baker has been desperately waiting for – an offensive opportunity with his star slugger at the plate.

    But Lee struck out swinging and Phil Nevin bounced into a double play. Lee went 1-for-4 with a single and two strikeouts.

    “Physically, I felt good,” he said. “I didn’t swing the bat well.”

    The Cubs had runners on first and second with one out in each of the first three innings, but couldn’t score. After going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position in Saturday night’s 3-0 loss, they were 2-for-11 on Sunday.

    “The first three innings we had him on the ropes,” Baker said. “We had trouble getting those RBIs. We got a lot of hits, we didn’t get many runs.”

    While the Cubs failed time and again to capitalize on their opportunities, the Twins took advantage right from the get-go.

    After Justin Morneau walked with one out in the second, Hunter hit a screamer to left field that one-hopped Matt Murton. He bobbled the ball, allowing Morneau to reach third and Hunter second.

    Ruben Sierra followed with a broken-bat single to give the Twins a 2-0 lead.

    The Twins had four straight singles in the third inning, and a throwing error by Jones in right field helped two runners move up a base.

    First blood was drawn when first baseman Nevin and second baseman Walker let Morneau’s single squeak through the infield, scoring Mike Redmond.

    Shortstop Neifi Perez then bobbled a groundball from Hunter to eliminate any chance of an inning-ending double play, and Michael Cuddyer scored on the fielder’s choice to make it 5-0.

    Marshall allowed five runs – four earned – and six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

    A throwing error by Perez in the sixth allowed Sierra to score and make it 6-0. Hunter’s 11th homer of the season, off Bob Howry in the seventh, made it 7-0.

    Rodriguez hit a solo shot in the eighth off Ryan Dempster, the second homer he has allowed all season.

    Henry Blanco had an RBI single in the ninth for Chicago’s only run.