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National League Roundup : Lopes Comes Through for Astros

July 24, 1986|DAN HAFNER

Davey Lopes is the perfect addition to a young team in a hot pennant race.

Although he is 40, Lopes is a versatile ballplayer with much experience in close pennant races. With the Dodgers, Lopes, who can play infield or outfield, was in four division playoffs and four World Series. He also was in a playoff as a member of the Chicago Cubs.

That's why the Houston Astros made a deal with the Cubs for the 15-year veteran.

Lopes made an auspicious debut in right field Wednesday at Houston. Lopes, who had a triple earlier, singled with two out in the 11th to score Dickie Thon from second with the run that gave the Astros a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Expos. With the Giants losing, the Astros extended their lead in the West to three games.

It was the sixth win in a row for the soaring leaders of the National League West. In the last five, the Astros, showing the marks of a solid team, have pulled out the victory in their last time at bat.

In four of the five, the Astros blew an early lead, then fought back to win. This was the fourth to go extra innings. In the other victory, the Astros scored two runs in the ninth to win.

The Astros sent relief pitcher Frank DiPino to the Cubs for Lopes, who was having an outstanding season. He batted .299 while playing the outfield, second base and third base.

"I hope I can contribute more as the season goes by," Lopes told the Associated Press after delivering in the clutch. "Right now I feel comfortable with this team."

The Expos have lost four in a row and trail the New York Mets by 14 1/2 in the East. The Astros built their winning streak at the expense of the two leaders in the East. They beat the Mets three times in a row before sweeping the Expos.

Montreal reliever Tim Burke (7-3) walked the bases loaded in the 10th, but escaped. In the 11th, Thon opened with a walk, was sacrificed to second and stayed there as Bill Doran struck out. Kevin Bass was given an intentional walk. Lopes rapped Burke's first pitch into left for a single to win the game.

"Lopes brings us confidence," Doran said. "He's been on winners."

Astro reliever Aurelio Lopez pitched two perfect innings to improve his record to 2-1.

Bob Knepper took a two-hitter and a 3-0 lead into the ninth. But three singles, an infield out and a sacrifice fly produced a 3-3 tie and deprived Knepper of his 13th victory.

St. Louis 4, San Francisco 3--After the brawl and the loss Tuesday night at St. Louis, San Francisco Manager Roger Craig promised, "We'll kick their butts tomorrow. They can't get away with embarrassing us."

The Giants would have been smart to just let the Cardinals sleep. Because, with Danny Cox winning at home for the first time since the playoffs last fall, the Cardinals did the butt-kicking, sweeping the three-game series.

It may have been costly, because Willie McGee, just starting to hit after a long slump, pulled a hamstring running out a triple.

Ozzie Smith singled in the tie-breaking run in a three-run sixth inning as the Cardinals beat Mike LaCoss for the first time in four tries this season.

Todd Worrell retired the last two Giants to earn his 18th save.

New York 3, Cincinnati 2--Compared to Tuesday's wild, brawling affair at Cincinnati, this was a tame game. The results, though, were just as disastrous to the Reds.

Back-to-back home runs by Eddie Milner and Dave Parker off Ron Darling gave the Reds a 2-0 lead in the third. The lead was 2-1 in the eighth, but Gary Carter had a leadoff single and, one out later, Kevin Mitchell hit a monstrous home run.

Mitchell's home run, his seventh of the season, sailed well over the 404-foot mark in center into the second deck and gave the Mets a sweep of the three-game series. The Reds fell eight games behind the Astros in the West.

Mets' third baseman Ray Knight, who triggered the brawl Tuesday night when he punched the Reds' Eric Davis, was booed lustily each time he came up by the crowd of 25,496. The cheers were deafening as he went 0 for 4.

Philadelphia 4, Atlanta 2--Juan Samuel and Von Hayes homered and rookie Bruce Ruffin, the successor to Steve Carlton, pitched a six-hitter at Atlanta to keep the Braves on the skids.

By losing their third in a row and 14th in the last 16, the Braves dropped into last place, below the Dodgers, in the West.

Ruffin, a 22-year-old left-hander brought up when Carlton was given his release last month, is 3-1. He has two complete games, both against the Braves.

San Diego 7, Chicago 5--The Padres put an end to their slump at Chicago. Marvell Wynne, a Chicago native, performing in front of his family, hit a double to break a 5-5 tie in the eighth inning.

Steve Garvey, who announced that he will probably retire after next season, singled to start the winning rally.

The Padres had lost five in a row and had fallen six games behind the Astros in the West.

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