CHICAGO (AP) -His left knee aching, Alfonso Soriano limped to the plate with one thought: Win the game, and then they'll have to cheer.
Soriano, who heard boos earlier in the game for several fielding miscues, ended a long home-run drought with a three-run shot in the eighth inning Friday, lifting the Chicago Cubs to a 5-2 victory over the New York Mets.
``I can make an error, I can hit a homer,' he said. ``If we play nine innings and we play hard, anything can happen. (Getting booed) is part of the game.'
As the ball settled into the bleachers for Soriano's first homer since July 29, teammate Milton Bradley - also a frequent target for frustrated Cubs fans - jumped up and waved a towel in celebration.
``I was elated,' said Bradley, whose third hit, a double, began the winning four-run rally. ``He's out there playing on one leg - to come up big like that, I couldn't be happier.'
Soriano said he will have an MRI on Monday to see what's wrong with his knee because the pain has worsened recently.
``I want to play but it's very tough,' said the left fielder. ``I don't get a very good jump because I cannot put weight on my knee.'
In the top of the eighth, he broke late on Angel Pagan's sinking liner and the ball skipped past him for a double as boos rained down.
After a sacrifice by Luis Castillo and a walk to Daniel Murphy, Cubs starter Ted Lilly was relieved by Kevin Gregg (5-5). With two outs, Fernando Tatis gave the Mets a 2-1 lead with a double off the wall after the ball glanced off the top of Soriano's glove.
More boos for the Cubs' $136 million man, who in the fourth had dropped an easy pop fly for an error. Nevertheless, Soriano recovered and threw to shortstop Ryan Theriot, whose relay to catcher Geovany Soto got Murphy at the plate. That brought cheers - a prelude to the bottom of the inning.
Bradley scored on Aramis Ramirez's single off reliever Brian Stokes (1-3). After Jeff Baker walked, Soriano hit an 0-2 hanging slider through a steady breeze for his 20th homer.
``Right pitch, bad execution ... and you pay for it,' said Stokes, who had thrown 12 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings since Aug. 3. ``We've been struggling, and it just makes it that much worse to give away a game like that.'
It was the opener of a three-game series between two of baseball's most disappointing teams. The Mets and Cubs have the second- and third-highest payrolls - with combined salaries of about $285 million - but both are out of contention.
The injury-riddled Mets have lost six of seven to fall into fourth place in the NL East. The Cubs have gone 7-14 since Aug. 7, falling from a first-place tie in the NL Central to nine behind St. Louis entering Friday's games.
Friday's victory was a nice 66th birthday present for beleaguered Cubs manager Lou Piniella, who laughed and said: ``I feel like I'm 76.'
The Mets lost despite getting a great outing from starter Pat Misch. A Chicago-area native who often took the train to Wrigley as a kid, he remains winless in eight major league decisions.
``I had a bunch of family and friends and my wife here. It was just a good day,' said Misch, who allowed one run on six hits in a career-high seven innings. ``I actually eat a lot before games and I couldn't eat anything this morning. It took me a couple of innings just to settle down.'
Lilly gave up two runs on six hits in 7 1-3 innings. Carlos Marmol pitched a scoreless ninth for his sixth save.
The Cubs scored in the first on Derrek Lee's RBI single. The Mets tied it in the second on Omir Santos' bloop single just off the tip of Bradley's glove in right field.
After catching a routine fly and getting a Bronx cheer in the seventh, Bradley - who earlier in the week criticized the ``hatred' being spewed by Cubs fans - bowed to the crowd.
``It's entertainment,' he said. ``You enjoy it. When you win, you really enjoy it.'
NOTES: Mets 3B David Wright, on the DL with a concussion since getting beaned by San Francisco's Matt Cain on Aug. 16, is expected to join the team in Chicago on Saturday and could be activated Tuesday. ... Cubs RHPs Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman said they have been claimed on waivers, though they didn't know which teams had claimed them. Cubs GM Jim Hendry declined to comment. The Cubs have until noon Monday to let the players go to the new teams, make trades with those teams or withdraw the players from waivers and keep them. ... Mets SS Jose Reyes, who has been on the DL for three months, might need surgery to repair his torn right hamstring tendon.
The Associated Press News Service
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