Bill Swift gained his 19th victory, giving up four hits over eight innings while striking out a career-high 10, as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Houston Astros, 1-0, Wednesday night at Houston.
Combined with the Atlanta Braves' 6-1 loss to the Expos at Montreal, the victory enabled the Giants to cut the Braves' lead to 2 1/2 games in the National League West.
"We're playing good again," Swift said of the Giants, who have won five of their last six games after losing eight in a row. "Our pitching is coming back around and we gained another game tonight. We're definitely in this race and we're going to do what needs to get done."
Swift (19-8) retired 17 of the first 20 batters and held Houston hitless until Steve Finley's infield single with one out in the fourth. Rod Beck pitched the ninth for his 42nd save.
"I told some guys on the bench just to give me one run and I'd make it hold up," Swift said after outdueling Houston's Pete Harnisch, who gave up one run and seven hits in eight innings, striking out 10 and walking two.
"The way Pete was throwing, I knew it would be a close game so I knew one run against him would be big. I was just trying to get our guys fired up."
Swift, who had never pitched more than 164 innings in a season, has pitched 217 2/3 innings this year and is getting stronger.
"If you had asked me at spring training if I would be this strong after pitching 200 innings, I would have said no," Swift said. "I feel like it's the beginning of the year. My fastball is the hardest it has been."
Kirt Manwaring, who was 0 for 11 against Harnisch, drove in the game's only run with a seventh-inning double that scored Willie McGee.
Montreal 6, Atlanta 1--Jeff Fassero struck out a career-high 11 for the Expos at Atlanta.
The Expos remained 5 1/2 games behind the Phillies in the National League East. The Phillies beat the Florida Marlins, 2-1, to reduce their magic number for clinching the division title to six.
Fassero (12-4), who started his first game in the majors on July 10 after 161 relief appearances, gave up four hits over eight innings. He walked just one and surpassed his career-best of 10 strikeouts.
A day after being blown out, 18-5, by the Braves, the Expos bounced back against Steve Avery (16-6). Montreal used its speed to steal four bases, setting up four runs.
Rookies Rondell White and Wil Cordero each drove in two runs to lead the Expos.
The three-game series ends tonight when Dennis Martinez, who turned down a trade to Atlanta last month, faces Greg Maddux. The Expos have won 20 of 24 games, the Braves 32 of 40.
Philadelphia 2, Florida 1--Dave Hollins' one-out single with the bases loaded in the 12th inning lifted the Phillies at Philadelphia.
Pinch-hitter Pete Incaviglia walked to open the 12th and raced to third on a single by Lenny Dykstra. Reliever Richie Lewis then hit Mickey Morandini with a pitch to load the bases.
After John Kruk struck out on a 3-2 pitch, Hollins lined a single to right field, scoring pinch-runner Tony Longmire.
Reliever Roger Mason (5-11) pitched 1 1/3 innings to earn the victory, and Bryan Harvey (1-5) took the loss. Harvey walked Incaviglia, then left because of a groin pull.
New York 6, Pittsburgh 5--Charlie O'Brien hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning for the Mets at New York.
The Mets survived John Franco's fourth consecutive blown save opportunity to win consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 26-27 against expansion Colorado. The Mets' longest winning streak this season is three games.
Chicago 11, St. Louis 9--Glenallen Hill's three-run homer at Chicago gave the Cubs a three-game series sweep over the Cardinals for the first time since October, 1991.
With St. Louis ahead, 7-6, in the sixth inning, the Cubs tied the score on Karl Rhodes' run-scoring single with two out. Mark Grace was walked intentionally before Hill hit his eighth home run since being traded from Cleveland on Aug. 20. He earlier had two singles and a run batted in.
The homer, to left center, made a winner of reliever Shawn Boskie (5-3), who gave up one hit, Stan Royer's seventh-inning homer, in two innings. Randy Myers pitched the ninth for his 49th save, extending his National League record.
Colorado 11, San Diego 4--Jerald Clark hit a three-run homer and had a career-high five RBIs at Denver as the Rockies came within two outs of the first shutout in franchise history.
The Rockies' 64th victory of the season tied them with Houston in 1962 for the most victories by an NL expansion team.