The Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants are the one-two teams in the National League West. They are also two teams in need of a spark.
Paul O'Neill and Norm Charlton provided the lift for the Reds Friday night as they beat the Giants, 7-0, in the opener of a four-game series at Cincinnati.
O'Neill hit two home runs off Don Robinson, and Charlton pitched a three-hitter for his first shutout and first complete game. The victory gave the Reds a 5 1/2-game lead over the Giants.
O'Neill, who hit a two-run home run in the first inning, led off the third with another to give him five home runs off Robinson this season.
It was only the fifth victory in 18 games for the Reds and the sixth loss for the Giants in their last seven games.
"Everybody sensed the importance of this series, even though there will be 49 games after it's over," Red Manager Lou Piniella said. "It isn't going to decided the pennant, but we needed to win the first one.
"Paul gave us a start and Norm was absolutely terrific. We needed a spark, especially after they beat us four times in San Francisco. Ever since then, we've been pressing. Maybe now we will be more relaxed."
"We let them know we're in first place and we plan on being here all season," Charlton (9-6) said. "I don't think there's a guy on this team who plans on relinquishing that lead. We've had the lead since April 9 and we don't plan on giving it up."
Until this season, O'Neill was .188 lifetime against Robinson. He's six for 14 this year and all but one of the hits was a home run.
"He liked what I threw, didn't he?" Robinson said. "I don't think I could lob it up there and give up five home runs. Jack Clark used to be toughest. Now, it must be Paul O'Neill."
Robinson (8-3) has given up 18 runs in the first inning this season.
St. Louis 8, Pittsburgh 3--Their most successful pitcher had to leave after two innings because of a stiff shoulder at Pittsburgh, but the Cardinals still knocked the Pirates out of first place in the East.
After striking out four of the six batters he faced, John Tudor (11-3) departed, holding his left arm.
Willie McGee, Todd Zeile and Jose Oquendo each had three hits for the Cardinals.
Vince Coleman, returning after being out a week with a hamstring problem, had four hits, including a home run.
Ken Dayley (3-2) pitched 3 1/3 perfect innings to get the victory.
Barry Bonds hit a two-run homer for the Pirates, who dropped half a game behind New York after losing their third in a row.
New York 5, Chicago 1--The Mets moved into first place on the three-hit pitching of Sid Fernandez.
The Mets ended Greg Maddux's five-game winning streak, although their three runs in the second inning were unearned because of a two-out error by first baseman Mark Grace.
Kevin McReynolds suffered back spasms as a result of Thursday night's brawl with Philadelphia and did not play.
Fernandez, hit hard in his two previous starts, had a string of 20 outs until Luis Salazar spoiled his shutout with a home run.
Montreal 4, Philadelphia 3--Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd (7-4) gave up four hits in six innings at Montreal, but the Expos' bullpen barely made his 4-1 lead hold up.
Darren Daulton hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning to make it close.
Tim Raines singled twice and scored both times for the Expos.
San Diego 2, Houston 0--The Padres were 21-31 while Benito Santiago, their heavy-hitting catcher was on the disabled list. He celebrated his return at Houston by driving in the first run with a sacrifice fly.
Ed Whitson (9-7) gave up seven hits and came within two outs of getting the shutout.