Mario Soto gave up only three hits Friday night at New York, but two of them came in the sixth inning, and the luckless Cincinnati Reds lost another game, 2-1, to the sizzling Mets.
Left-hander Bob Ojeda struck out 10 Reds in eight innings and remained unbeaten (5-0) in the National League as the Mets stretched their latest winning streak to six.
While the Mets are threatening to run away with the East, the Reds are sinking in the West. Cincinnati has a 6-18 record is nine games behind. New York has won 17 of its last 18 and leads the East by five.
Soto (2-4) has had trouble with the home run ball this season, but he gave up only an infield hit until the sixth inning. Tim Teufel singled, and one out later, Soto issued his first walk to Len Dykstra. Howard Johnson doubled in the tying run. After an intentional walk to Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly.
Red Manager Pete Rose has always believed that things would even out over a 162-game season, but he's beginning to wonder when it's going to happen.
"If they don't even out, I won't be here to see it," Rose told the Associated Press. "Either I'll jump off a bridge, or someone will assassinate me, because I won't quit.
"Everyone is an expert when you're on a losing streak. One guy says I should pull the lineup out of a hat. If I did, Dave Parker would probably bat ninth.
"I've seen teams get in slumps and come out of them. Hey, we're hustling. If anything, we've got too many guys trying to take on too much. I think that's one of the things really hurting Parker. He's trying to hit the ball in the seats every time up. You can't hit a three-run homer with nobody on base."
Parker almost ended the string of successes Ojeda has had since the Mets obtained him from the Boston Red Sox last winter. With one on in the eighth, he sent a deep drive to right-center. Dykstra, his glove extended above the fence, robbed him.
San Diego 6, Chicago 2--Kevin McReynolds broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run home run in the seventh inning to beat Rick Sutcliffe and drop his record to 1-5.
About the only consolation for the hard-luck right-hander is that the Cubs, after scoring a total of only two runs in his previous four defeats, doubled that output.
Sutcliffe, for the first time, exhibited good control. Going into the game, he had pitched 42 innings and walked 30 batters. In seven innings, he walked only two.
The home run ball reared up in this one. Terry Kennedy and Tim Flannery homered off Sutcliffe, then in the seventh, Tony Gwynn singled and Kennedy walked before McReynolds unloaded.
Philadelphia 7, Atlanta 6--It has been almost two weeks since Mike Schmidt has hit a home run, but he is doing other things with the bat to help the Phillies.
In this game at Atlanta, Schmidt had two singles, drove in two runs and raised his average to .330, good enough to reach the top 10. Although he has only five home runs, the slugging veteran is tied for the league lead in runs batted in with 24.
The Phillies have been playing Schmidt at first so young Rick Schu can play third. It is paying off. Schu had three hits, including his third home run.
Houston 3, Pittsburgh 2--Jim Winn made a wild pitch with a runner on third base in the ninth inning at Pittsburgh to give the Astros the victory.
Sid Bream hit a two-run home run for the Pirates. The former Dodger then missed by a foot of being a hero. With one on in the bottom of the ninth, Bream's deep drive was caught by center fielder Billy Hatcher with his back against the fence.
San Francisco 2, St. Louis 1--Mike LaCoss will probably not be returning to the bullpen. A couple of weeks ago, to help an overworked pitching staff, Manager Roger Craig gave the veteran right-hander a start.
This victory at St. Louis was his third in a row. He became a winner when Joel Youngblood hit a run-scoring single in the 10th inning. In three starts following five consecutive scoreless relief appearances, LaCoss has pitched 26 innings and given up just 2 runs and 15 hits.