Buck Rogers' doubts aside, the Montreal Expos are suddenly in a pennant race.
Chris Nabholz fired a one-hitter for his first major league shutout Thursday to lead the Expos to their sixth straight win, a 2-0 decision over the New York Mets that gave Montreal a sweep of their double-header.In the first game, Andres Galarraga snapped a tie with a sacrifice fly and the Expos scored four runs in the eighth inning for a 6-4 victory.
The Expos' six straight wins - three against the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates and three against the Mets - moved the Expos to within 41/2 games of the top of the NL East and dropped the Mets 21/2 games behind Pittsburgh.
Still, Rogers is downplaying his teams' pennant surge.
"Before we're taken seriously, we gotta' pass somebody and get into second place," Rodgers said. "Hopefully we can play well enough to pass them (Mets). We've got a big four-game series in Philadelphia this week. This was a great series for us."
For the Mets, it further exposed their vulnerability to left-handed pitching.
Montreal started two left-handers who began the season in Double A, and came away with two wins. New York fell to 24-29 against southpaw starters.
It won't get any easier for the Mets. They face left-hander Steve Wilson Friday in Chicago.
"We dug ourselves a couple of holes this year," New York Manager Bud Harrelson said. "We bounced back early in the season and again after the All-Star Game."
Any combination of Pirate victories and New York losses totalling 11 would eliminate the Mets. Pittsburgh's magic number is nine for ousting the Expos.
New York plays 10 of its last 13 games on the road, including its final three against Pittsburgh. The Pirates play nine of their last 12 at home.
New York's Dave Magadan reflected on what the Mets squandered in going 5-5 on their last major homestand.
"Pittsburgh loses six in a row . . . ," he said. "We've had our opportunities."
Nabholz, 6-0, took a no-hitter into the sixth before Tom Herr singled with two out.
"It's a pitch I wanted to throw," Nabholz said of the ball Herr hit. "So I have no regrets."
Sid Fernandez, 9-14, took the loss despite allowing just two hits in six innings.
The Expos got all the runs they would need in the fourth. Tim Raines walked and scored on singles by Galarraga and Tim Wallach. Mike Fitzgerald walked to load the bases and Marquis Grissom lined a sacrifice fly to right.
"Montreal has everything to gain and nothing to lose," New York's Keith Miller said.
Galarraga's eighth-inning fly to shallow center delivered Raines in the opener, making a winner of reliever Mel Rojas, 3-1. Tim Burke pitched two innings for his 20th save. The loss went to Frank Viola, 19-10, who entered the eighth with a two-run lead. John Franco blew a save opportunity for New York.
Pirates 11, Cubs 2
At Chicago, Andy Van Slyke hit two home runs, driving in three runs, and Barry Bonds hit his 32nd homer to power the Pirates. Bob Walk, 6-5, posted his first victory since July 20, allowing five hits over 51/3 innings, including Ryne Sandberg'sNL-leading 37th home run. Bonds's homer, a two-run blast in the eighth, was his third in his last six at-bats. Randy Kramer, fell to 0-3.
Giants 5, Braves 3
At Atlanta, Mike Laga's two-run pinch-hit homer in the sixth helped Eric Gunderson earn his first major-league victory. With the score tied 2-2 and one out, Jose Uribe singled off John Smoltz, 13-10 and Laga, batting for Gunderson, 1-2, hit his second homer of the season. Rick Reuschel earned his first save sinc 1985 with four-innings of three-hit relief.
Astros 3, Reds 2
At Houston, Pinch hitter Carl Nichols lined a bases-loaded, two-run single with two out in the bottom of the ninth to rally Houston. Nichols, batting for winning pitcher Javier Hernandez, lined the first pitch off Randy Myers, 3-5, to send the Reds to their third straight setback. Hernandez, 2-0, retired the side in order in the ninth to pick up the victory.
Cardinals 5, Phillies 4
At St. Louis, Rookie pinch hitter Ray Lankford's RBI single capped a three-run ninth inning rally to lift St. Louis. Roger McDowell, 6-8, took the loss. Mike Perez, 1-0, pitched the ninth to pick up his first major league win. Lenny Dykstra went 1 for 5 and is now batting .330. Willie McGee leads the NL with a .335 average.
Dodgers 7, Padres 2
At Los Angeles, Ramon Martinez tossed a six-hit complete game and Alfredo Griffin and Mike Scioscia drove in two runs apiece to help move Los Angeles within 31/2 games of the Cincinnati Reds in the National League West. Martinez, 19-6, hurled his major league-leading 11th complete game. Andy Benes, 10-9, took the loss.
Indians 12, Yankees 7
At New York, Carlos Baerga had a triple and three of Cleveland's nine doubles to pace the Indians. Brook Jacoby added two doubles, a single and and two RBI for the Indians. Mike Walker, 2-6, picked up the win while Rich Monteleone, 0-1 was the loser.
Mariners 7, White Sox 3
At Seattle, Henry Cotto drove in four runs with a two-run triple and a two-run homer and Erik Hanson pitched a complete game for the Mariners. Hanson, 16-9, scattered eight hits in posting his third complete game. Greg Hibbard, 13-9, allowed six runs over five innings.