Gary Carter hit a two-run home run in the 10th inning at Pittsburgh Sunday to give the New York Mets a 9-7 victory and finally rid them of the pesky Pirates.
Moreover, it gave the Mets what they had been hoping for: A chance to tie for the lead in the National League East by sweeping their three-game series at St. Louis which starts Tuesday night.
The Mets, with only six games remaining, trail the Cardinals by three games and it figures they would need to win all three to have a chance for the division title.
After the Pirates, who had won three out of five from the Mets in the last 10 days, scored three times in the eighth to take a 7-6 lead, it appeared the Pirates would really wreck the Mets' hopes.
But Howard Johnson hit his 11th home run in the ninth to send it into extra innings. With one out in the 10th, Keith Hernandez singled and Carter hammered his career-high 32nd home run and set the stage for the invasion of St. Louis.
The Mets call Carter "Mr. September" and without his big hits they wouldn't be in a position to challenge the Cardinals.
"We wanted to go to St. Louis no more than three out," Carter told UPI. "Now we have to win three out of three there."
Manager Dave Johnson is not happy with his bullpen. "We shouldn't have needed Johnson's home run or Gary's," he said. "But Roger (McDowell) didn't have it today and I didn't think Jesse (Orosco) did either."
Orosco pitched 2 innings of scoreless relief. But, he gave up three singles and two walks before he finally put down the Pirates to improve his record to 7-6.
There were 13,956 fans on hand for what may have been the last game in Pittsburgh. The attendance of 735,900 was the lowest since 1968.
Montreal 7, St. Louis 5--The Cardinals are so happy to get out of Montreal, even facing Dwight Gooden doesn't figure to be any tougher.
Hubie Brooks, who has been the Expos' key hitter all season, tripled in two runs in the seventh inning at Montreal to break a 5-5 tie. The victory gave the Expos a 7-2 edge at home against the leaders of the East and an 11-7 overall record against them.
"That three-game series with the Mets is the most important of the season," Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog said. "That will give us a chance to do it ourselves. The Expos have been a problem for us all season. My bullpen did the job yesterday, but today after we pulled ahead twice, the relievers failed."
Brooks said the way the Cardinals battle, they will be tough for the Mets to sweep.
"No matter what the score is, the Cardinals keep coming at you and playing their game," said Brooks who has driven in 96 runs. "They never stop. Even though we beat them 11 times, they'll still be in the World Series."
The Cardinals stole four more bases and have now stolen 33 in a row since they were last caught. Ozzie Smith, after hitting his sixth home run earlier, singled in the tying run in the top of the seventh, stole second and third and scored the go-ahead run on Brian Harper's sacrifice fly.
But Ken Dayley and Jeff Lahti, who have largely taken up the slack for the loss of relief ace Bruce Sutter, couldn't stop the Expos, especially the former Met, Brooks.
Cincinnati 5, Houston 0--The Reds keep winning but must watch their pennant hopes slowly fade away in the West.
Jay Tibbs pitched a five-hitter at Cincinnati to complete a three-game sweep of Houston and give the Reds their 12th win in 14 games, but they remained 5 1/2-games behind the Dodgers, with only seven games remaining.
"We've got the best team in the division right now," player-manager Pete Rose told UPI. "Nobody has been playing the way we have.
"But all we can do is keep putting W's up on the board and let the Dodgers know they've got to keep winning to take it. If we keep winning and the Dodgers still win it, they'll deserve it."
Atlanta 3, San Diego 2--Relief pitcher Gene Walter walked Rafael Ramirez with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning at Atlanta to beat the Padres.