Steve Carlton, 41, was 1-8 during a injury-riddled season last year and had won only two of six decisions this season.
But Tuesday night at Philadelphia, he came up with his best performance in quite a while and came away with a 6-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
Carlton (3-6), who broke Warren Spahn's National League record with his 666th career start, gave up seven hits, struck out eight and did not walk a batter over eight innings. It was Carlton's 317th career victory.
Phillie Manager John Felske was impressed with Carlton's breaking pitch Tuesday night. "They chased a lot of breaking balls down tonight and that's a good sign," he said. "That means the break is quick."
Phillie pitching coach Claude Osteen said Carlton, a four-time Cy Young Award winner, has been using the same delivery in his last few starts and it has paid off.
"He's speeded his delivery up to generate more arm speed, rather than long arming it with a bigger breaking ball," Osteen said. "By increasing his arm speed, you cut down on the break a bit and make it sharper."
Giant Manager Roger Craig also said Carlton's breaking ball was the reason for his success. "He didn't throw many fastballs, but he had a good slider and curve," he said. "He doesn't throw as hard as he used to, but he is a smart pitcher."
In the eighth inning, Mike Schmidt hit a two-run home run, his eighth homer of the season, to break a 2-2 tie. The homer, off reliever Jeff Robinson (2-1), scored pinch-runner Luis Aguayo, who replaced Juan Samuel after Samuel opened the inning with a single.
Philadelphia scored two more runs in the eighth on Greg Gross' pinch-hit double off reliever Greg Minton that scored Glenn Wilson and Steve Jeltz.
Houston 5, St. Louis 4--The Astros increased their lead in the NL West to 1 1/2 games as Kevin Bass scored the winning run from second base in the ninth inning at St. Louis on a throwing error by shortstop Ozzie Smith.
Bass opened the ninth with a single off Ken Dayley (0-3) and took second on a groundout. Mark Bailey was intentionally walked by reliever Todd Worrell, and Dickie Thon followed with a potential double-play grounder back to the mound.
But after Worrell threw to Smith for a forceout, Smith's throw to first base was wide for an error. It the fourth error in 41 games this season for Smith, a six-time Gold Glove winner.
Dave Smith (1-2) got credit for Houston's third straight victory. Smith bailed out Frank DiPino in the eighth when St. Louis rallied for a 4-4 tie.
Cincinnati 5, Chicago 4--Dave Parker, who was thrown out of Monday's game for arguing over a third strike, came back with four straight singles at Chicago.
His hit in the fifth was a line shot off the right-field wall. Dave Concepcion scored from second on the hit to put the Reds ahead to stay as they notched their fifth victory in the last six games.
Parker, with his four hits in five at-bats, improved his average 15 points to .311.
Tom Browning (2-4) pitched the first 6 innings to earn the victory, and Ron Robinson struck out six in the final 2 innings to earn his third save.
Atlanta 6, Pittsburgh 2--Terry Harper hit a grand slam with two out in the 12th inning to give the Braves a victory at Pittsburgh.
A season-low crowd of 2,830 watched the Pirates drop their sixth straight, their longest losing streak of the season. The Braves won their third in a row.
Montreal 5, San Diego 4--Steve Garvey's three-run homer in the first inning helped the Padres take a 4-0 lead, but the Expos came back to win at Montreal as shortstop Hubie Brooks drove in two runs, including the decider in the seventh inning.