Baseball has always been a game that thrived on statistics. Avid fans study the batting averages, the home run leaders and pitching percentages.
The sport is always on the lookout for new categories to whet the appetites. A couple of years ago, they came up with a new one--the game-winning RBI. Despite its flaws, the avid fan has something else to cherish.
It may be the National League will soon have another one--game-winning home run.
If so, it already has a leader, Tim Raines, even though he has played in only four games this season.
The fleet outfielder, who is casting doubts almost daily on the value of spring training, hit a lead-off home run in the seventh inning Tuesday night at Atlanta to break a 4-4 tie and lead the Montreal Expos to a 6-4 victory.
It was the third time that Raines hit a home run for the decisive blow of the game. In his debut Saturday in New York, Raines hit a dramatic 10th-inning homer to win the game. The next day, he led off with a home run in the Expos' 2-0 victory over the Mets.
Raines, who offered his services to several clubs, including the Dodgers and was turned down, signed with the Expos last Friday. He is hitting .438 and has driven in eight runs.
He doesn't consider himself a power hitter, and the statistics seem to bear him out. Going into this season, Raines, 26, had hit only 48 home runs in 3,372 at-bats.
"I've always felt I had home run power, but I don't like to say I'm a home run hitter," Raines said. "I'm just making good contact and getting the ball in the air."
Raines, who twice hit 11 home runs in a season, just missed a home run in his first at-bat Saturday.
On this game-winning smash, Raines hit Rick Mahler's first pitch of the inning, a changeup, over the right-field fence.
"I can't say I was looking for a changeup in that situation, but I hit it good," Raines said. "It's the same pitch he had gotten me out on earlier when I grounded out."
Tim Wallach, who hit three home runs and drove in six runs Monday night, singled in two runs in a three-run first for the Expos.
But the Braves scored four runs in the third. Casey Candaele's infield hit drove in Tom Foley with the tying run in the sixth.
San Francisco 10, St. Louis 6--Manager Roger Craig gave himself an assist for Chris Speier's grand slam in the sixth inning that enabled the Giants to come from behind and beat the Cardinals again.
Speier hit his first home run with the bases full in 15 years off reliever Ray Soff in a six-run rally that wiped out a 5-1 deficit.
"I called him over on a count of 2-and-0 and I said, 'Hey, a lot of managers would have you take one,' "Craig said. 'I want you to look at the ball. If you get a good pitch, hit it.' "
Monday night, the Cardinals, whose bullpen star Todd Worrell, is off to a horrible start, blew a 7-1 lead.
In the two games, the Giants scored 20 runs and had 33 hits.
Cincinnati 2, New York 0--If you're going to beat the Reds, you better do it before John Franco comes to the rescue.
The left-handed relief pitcher is almost perfect. He replaced former Dodger Ted Power (3-0) with one out in the ninth at New York and retired both Mets he faced for his fifth save.
Franco has retired 29 of the 30 batters he has faced this season.
Eric Davis went hitless, but he made a spectacular play to rob Darryl Strawberry of a home run in the sixth inning. Strawberry hit a drive to deep center, and Davis leaped above the fence to catch the ball.
Sid Fernandez (4-2) pitched another strong game, but he hit Kurt Stillwell on a 1-and-2 pitch with two out in the third, and Dave Parker doubled Stillwell home. In the eighth, Davis walked with two out, stole his third base of the game and scored on Buddy Bell's single.
The Mets have lost three in a row, the last two by shutout.
Houston 5, Philadelphia 1--Danny Darwin didn't care too much for the American League because he didn't get to bat.
His hitting was as good as his pitching in this game at Philadelphia. He doubled, had a bunt single and then, in the seventh, broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run triple.
After the seventh, the Astros gave him the rest of the night off. In improving his record to 2-1, he gave up five hits in seven innings.
Shane Rawley (1-2) was the victim of Darwin's hitting outburst.
Pittsburgh 10, San Diego 8--Rafael Belliard smacked the first home run of his career, and three other Pirates--Andy Van Slyke, R.J. Reynolds and Barry Bonds--also homered to power the Pirates' victory at San Diego.
Bob Walk (1-0), the third of five Pittsburgh pitchers, was the winner. Loser Eric Show (1-2) was chased in a five-run second inning highlighted by Belliard's three-run homer. San Diego pitchers have yielded 42 home runs in 28 games this season.