Vida Blue turned in another strong game Sunday at Houston, holding the Astros to four hits in six innings and pitching the San Francisco Giants to a 7-2 victory.
The Giants climbed to within two games of the Astros in the tightening race in the National League West.
It was the third win in a row for Blue since he regained his fastball. He struck out six and departed with a comfortable 6-1 lead.
The Giants, a surprise this season, used a couple of suicide squeeze bunts to beat former teammate Bob Knepper. Knepper (10-4) had beaten the Giants eight times in a row. They jumped on him for 10 hits and 4 runs in 5 innings.
It was the 16th road win for the Giants, who won only 24 away games all last season.
The Blue comeback which began last year continues to be a remarkable one. When he was released by Kansas City in August, 1983, spent 81 days in jail for possession of a controlled substance, then was suspended by the commissioner for the 1984 season, it appeared his career was over. The career that began so brilliantly seemed destined for a miserable finish.
In his first full season, 1971 at Oakland, he had a 24-8 record and won the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards.
The Giants, the worst team in the West last season, gave Blue, an 18-game winner for them in 1978, a tryout in the spring of 1985 and he made the club. He was 8-8 for a team that lost 100 games.
After a slow start this season he has had a brilliant June. In his three starts, he has pitched 18 innings, given up just 3 runs and 11 hits and struck out 13.
Last week, when he mowed down Atlanta on two hits for seven innings, Braves Manager Chuck Tanner, who was Blue's manager at Oakland in 1976, thought he was seeing things.
"He was throwing so hard that I was wondering if there was something wrong with my eyes," Tanner said. "Once he got into a groove after the first inning he was tough. I admire Vida. He's a man who works at his trade."
Blue is about the only Giant pitcher who doesn't throw a split-finger fastball as taught by Manager Roger Craig. His fingers are too stubby.
New York 4-8, Pittsburgh 1-5--While the West gets interesting, the Mets continue to make a shambles of the East. This sweep of a doubleheader from the lowly Pirates at New York increased their lead over Montreal to 10 1/2 games.
After Bob Ojeda scattered nine hits in the opener to improve his record to 8-2, rookie catcher Ed Hearn hit a three-run home run in the second game to help extend the Mets' latest winning streak to six. Gary Carter, the regular Met catcher, played first base in the second game and also homered.
Rick Aguilera, one of the few Met pitchers not having a good season, lasted 5 innings, giving up four hits and three runs, to win his first game.
Ojeda lost his shutout in the ninth inning of the opener when Jim Morrison and Tony Pena hit doubles.
Cincinnati 9, Atlanta 7--It has been a rough season for Reds reliever Ted Power, who won eight games last season and saved 27. Going into this game at Atlanta he was 3-4 with an ERA of 4.55 and didn't have a save.
Naturally, he was elated when he struck out fearsome Dale Murphy with two on and two out in the eighth after the Braves had rallied from a 9-0 deficit to 9-6.
"It was an all-star pitch," Power told the Associated Press. In truth, the former Dodger struck out a brilliant hitter who is in the worst slump of his career. In 13 games in the month of June, Murphy, a two-time MVP, is 10 for 49, without a home run and with only one RBI.
Chicago 4, St. Louis 3--It wasn't easy, but Gene Michael is a winner in his second game as manager of the Cubs. Steve Lake hit a two-out bloop single in the 11th inning at Chicago and Keith Moreland scored from second when right fielder Tito Landrum just missed a sliding catch.
The Cardinals went ahead in the top of the 10th on a run-scoring pinch single by Jack Clark, but bullpen ace Todd Worrell couldn't hold the lead and lost the game in the next inning. Worrell figured in all four games in the series. He saved both Cardinal victories and lost the other two games.
All four games were one-run affairs and each team scored just seven runs in the four games.
Montreal 2, Philadelphia 0--Even center fielder Herm Winningham was surprised when he hit a third-inning home run at Philadelphia to give the Expos the only run they needed.
"Accidents will happen," Winningham said. "I didn't think it was going out. I'm just glad we won."
Three pitchers combined for the shutout. Andy McGaffigan (4-2) gave up four hits in 6 innings. Bob McClure retired two batters in the seventh and Jeff Reardon retired six in a row for his 15th save.
In the ninth, Hubie Brooks tripled and stole home on the front end of a double steal after Tim Wallach walked.