When they scored five runs in the first two innings Monday and had their one solid starter, Bill Gullickson, pitching, the Cincinnati Reds thought it would be easy to end their four-game losing streak.
Instead, they barely outlasted the Chicago Cubs, 5-4, at Cincinnati, and needed some luck to do it.
Gullickson (6-2) left after six innings, and was leading, 5-3, despite giving up home runs to Ryne Sandberg and Leon Durham. The trouble for the Reds began when Manager Pete Rose went to the bullpen.
In the seventh, the Cubs loaded the bases with one out against Ron Robinson. But Jerry Mumphrey lined into a double play.
After Andre Dawson hit his 14th home run in the eighth to bring the Cubs to within a run, Rose called on his ace, John Franco, to pitch the ninth.
Against the other clubs in the National League, Franco has been almost unbeatable. The Cubs, though, treat him like a batting practice pitcher.
Franco walked Bob Dernier with one out--the first batter he had walked this year. Then Brian Dayett hit a pitch to deep right-center field for a double. The ball hit the top of the wall, missing a home run that would have given Chicago the lead. With only one out, the speedy Dernier had to wait to see if Cincinnati center fielder Eric Davis would catch it and only reached third. If two had been out, Dernier would have scored the tying run easily.
Sandberg was walked intentionally, but Manny Trillo hit into a double play to end the game. Franco, who served up a game-winning home run to Dernier last week in Chicago, got his eighth save. Lifetime against the Cubs, he is 2-2 with an earned-run average of 6.06.
"I don't know what it is," Franco said. "I think in my whole career, I've had only one easy inning against them.
"I said, 'Oh, no, not again' when Dayett hit that ball in the ninth. Then, Eric (Davis) made the great play to keep Dernier from scoring. The Cubs scare me. They can all hit it out."
Rose also thought Dayett's drive was going to be a home run. "We got a lucky break when the ball hit the top of the fence and didn't go out," he said. "But we've had a lot of bad breaks lately, so maybe we were due."
The victory moved the Reds to within two games of the first-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
Cincinnati had nine hits, including four doubles. Nick Esasky hit his second home run since coming off the disabled list last week.
New York 8, San Francisco 7--The Mets thought that with the return of bullpen ace Roger McDowell a couple of weeks ago, many of their pitching worries were over.
McDowell won 14 games and 22 saves last year. He missed the first seven weeks of the season because of a hernia operation.
In his first week back, he picked up a victory and three saves. But Sunday, he lost to the Dodgers, and Monday at San Francisco, couldn't hold an 8-4 lead.
McDowell pitched a scoreless eighth inning but couldn't make it through the ninth. Candy Maldonado doubled in two runs and, with two out, scored on Robbie Thompson's single. Jesse Orosco replaced McDowell and struck out Chili Davis on three pitches to earn a save.
Mookie Wilson sparked the Mets' 13-hit attack. He singled to start a four-run first inning, tripled in two runs in the sixth when the Mets broke a 4-4 tie, and scored three runs.
Atlanta 14, St. Louis 5--Jack Clark is the main reason the Cardinals are leading the East, so it was easy to forgive him for having an off night.
The slugging first baseman had his hitting streak snapped at 10 games and made a record-tying three errors in the first inning of a game at St. Louis.
The Braves collected 17 hits and had their highest run total since May, 1985. Included in the barrage was Ozzie Virgil's 15th home run. It was his 12th this month.
Clark's streak ended, but Terry Pendleton singled during a three-run, third inning to extend his streak to 19 games, longest in the majors this season.
Benefiting from the offensive support, Zane Smith went the distance to improve his record to 5-2. Danny Cox (4-2) gave up 10 hits and seven runs before being knocked out in the fifth.
Houston 7, Pittsburgh 2--With Glenn Davis starting to hit, it figured the Astros' losing streak would soon come to an end.
Davis drove in three runs and Jim Deshaies yielded just four hits at Houston as the Astros' ended their five-game losing streak.
Davis is 8 for 15 in the last four games, with three home runs. And he's also driven in eight runs.
Deshaies gave up three hits and two runs in the first inning, then retired 24 of the last 25 batters he faced.
Philadelphia 6, San Diego 4--In the battle between the league's two last-place teams at San Diego, only 11,504 fans turned out to watch the Phillies prevail.
Shortstop Luis Aguayo hit two solo home runs and Von Hayes hit a three-run blast to lead the Phillies. Aguayo has eight home runs, a career high.
Dan Schatzeder (3-1), the third Phillies' pitcher, worked 1 innings to get the win. Steve Bedrosian went the last two innings to get his eighth save.
John Kruk hit a three-run homer for the Padres, who are 11-35, the worst record in the majors.