Left-hander Bob Ojeda gave the New York Mets' pennant hopes a big lift Sunday at New York when he pitched them to a 12-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ojeda, in his first start since undergoing elbow surgery in late May, allowed six hits and three runs, two of them earned, in six innings as the Mets moved into the last week of the season 2 1/2 games out of first place in the National League East.
Kevin McReynolds hit a three-run home run, his 29th and third in three days, to highlight a six-run fourth that routed the Pirates' brilliant rookie, Mike Dunne (12-6).
In their final home game of the regular season, a sellout crowd of 48,588 sent the Mets' attendance past the 3 million mark. Previously, the Dodgers were the only team to reach that figure.
It was the first victory for Ojeda since April 21.
Ojeda came off the disabled list Sept. 1. After three relief appearances in which he appeared to be pitching freely, Manager Davey Johnson sent him out in a must win situation.
How good an outing was it? Well, no starter did as well since Dwight Gooden went the distance last Monday to beat the Chicago Cubs.
"I made it back with a lot of help," Ojeda said. "Dr. (Richard) Eaton's technique and Dr. (James) Parkes' procedure during the operation was the key. Then there was the therapist and a lot of others.
"Finally, I was back. I really wanted this start. I told Davey I was ready. He knew I was throwing well.
"It all worked out. I was able to stretch out more. The funny thing about today, I felt nothing warming up in the bullpen before the game. The adrenaline started pumping when the lineups were announced.
"By the time the anthem was sung, I was ready to go. When I got to the mound, I felt great. It also helped that the guys got me some runs."
McReynolds, who hit two home runs Friday night, drove in four runs.
Dunne, who had won 9 of his last 10 decisions, gave up 6 runs in 3 innings.
Chicago 7, St. Louis 3--The Cardinals' favorite patsy turned on them at Chicago and tightened the race in the East.
The Cubs hit four home runs, one the 47th of the season by Andre Dawson, and Keith Moreland drove in three runs as Chicago beat the Cardinals for only the 6th time in 18 meetings this season.
The Cardinals head home to finish the season with four games against Montreal, which trails by three games, and three against New York, which trails by 2 1/2.
"We are in a position where we can go out and win it," Manager Whitey Herzog said. "If we are the best team, we'll win it. If we're not, one of the others will win it. I just wish we were hitting better.
"Our pitching, except for this one, has been solid down the stretch. If we score some runs, we can win it."
The Cubs dominated from the time Bob Dernier hit Danny Cox's third pitch of the game for his eighth home run. Dernier was in center because Dave Martinez injured his wrist.
The Cubs gave rookie Les Lancaster (8-2) a 5-0 lead.
San Francisco 15, Atlanta 6--Phil Niekro, 48, was geared for just three innings in his farewell major league appearance at Atlanta.
He led, 5-0, after three innings, but the Giants, on their way to the win that clinched at least a tie for the title in the West, chased him during a six-run fourth.
Niekro, who won 318 games in a career that began with the Milwaukee Braves in 1964, made his retirement definite after the game.
Niekro, who will take a front-office position with the Braves next season, left with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth, leading, 5-2.
Candy Maldonado, pinch-hitting for Mike Aldrete, greeted reliever Chuck Cary with a grand slam. Maldonado singled in two more runs in the seventh as the Giants virtually assured themselves of their first division title since 1971. They are seven ahead with seven to play.
The Giants can clinch it with a win tonight in San Diego. Former Padre Dave Dravecky will start.
Montreal 5, Philadelphia 3--Hubie Brooks drove in four runs at Philadelphia, but it took a fly ball by Tim Raines that was lost in the sun by center fielder Milt Thompson to enable the Expos to break a 3-3 tie in the eighth.
Raines opened the inning with a routine fly that went for a double when Thompson couldn't find it. Mitch Webster beat out a bunt and Raines took third, scoring on a wild pitch.
Cincinnati 4, Houston 2--Bob Knepper (8-17) took a three-hitter and a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning at Cincinnati and emerged with another defeat.
Buddy Bell's two-run triple climaxed a four-run rally that enabled the Reds to take a five-game lead in the battle for second place in the West.