On paper before the season, the New York Mets appeared to be unbeatable. On the field so far, they almost are unbeatable.
Ron Darling held the slump-ridden Cincinnati Reds to three hits in eight innings Saturday at New York, and George Foster and Gary Carter hit home runs to carry the Mets to a 5-1 victory. It was their seventh win in a row and their 18th in 19 games.
To Darling (3-0), there is something unrealistic about the start.
"We're 20-4. That means we have to go 15-1 to duplicate what the Tigers did," Darling told the Associated Press. "That's unreal."
The Tigers opened the 1984 season by going 35-5, a record start. They went on to breeze to the pennant and to an easy victory over San Diego in the World Series.
Darling appears to be rounding into form. Although he won two of his previous five starts, the 25-year-old right-hander had not been impressive. He yielded 18 walks in 26 innings and had an earned-run average of 5.74.
In this one, the only run he gave up was unearned because of his own throwing error in the seventh inning.
The Mets held only a 2-1 lead in the eighth. But Keith Hernandez singled, and Carter homered. Later in the inning, the Mets batted for Darling and added another run when Mookie Wilson, making his first start in center field this season, walked with the bases loaded.
Three of the four Met losses have been in games they could have won. They dropped three in a row in the middle of April, two in extra innings. The other two losses were complete games by Shane Rawley of Philadelphia and Zane Smith of Atlanta.
Two pitchers lost the four games. Randy Niemann was beaten twice in relief and no longer pitches in decisive situations. The other two were lost by Rick Aguilera as a starter. He was defeated May 1 by Atlanta and is now out of the rotation.
The Reds continue to go in the opposite direction from the Mets. Although he pitched well, Tom Browning is 0-4. The Reds have lost 12 of their last 13 games and are 6-19 for the season.
"The Mets have no weaknesses now," Red player-Manager Pete Rose said. "They are going to steamroll you when they are as hot as this."
Houston 6, Pittsburgh 3--Glenn Davis hit two home runs and a double and drove in three runs to help Bob Knepper become the first six-game winner in the league.
Knepper gave up eight hits in seven innings but was a winner when Davis, batting only .222, went on a spree.
The victory enabled the Astros to move a full game in front in the West.
"I can't remember starting any better," Knepper said, "except I think I was 8-1 my second year in Little League."
Chicago 6, San Diego 5--Dennis Eckersley didn't pitch well at Chicago, but he hit a two-run home run in the second inning for the game-winning RBI and won his first game of the season.
"This ballpark is not easy to pitch in but, as you can tell, it is easy to hit in, he said."
There were five home runs in the game, although the wind was blowing in from right field. One of the homers was Graig Nettles' 371st. Nettles passed the late Gil Hodges and took over 29th place on the all-time list.
Nettles' shot was one of 12 hits off Eckersley in 5 innings.
St. Louis 6, San Francisco 3--Ray Burris, recently brought back from the minors by the Cardinals, pitched and batted them to victory at St. Louis.
Burris, a 35-year-old right-hander with more than 100 victories, hit a bases-loaded double in the third inning to drive in three runs and give himself a 6-0 cushion.
Through seven innings, Burris held the Giants to a run and five hits. He hit a batter and gave up a double to start the eighth and was replaced. Ken Dayley retired the last four batters for his first save.
Atlanta 3, Philadelphia 1--Claudell Washington and Terry Harper hit home runs, and Zane Smith held the Phillies to five hits in seven innings at Atlanta.
Smith struck out eight to regain the league strikeout lead with 53.