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NATIONAL LEAGUE ROUNDUP

King's Homers in Fourth Send Reds to Dogs

May 01, 1996|From Associated Press

There was Marge Schott, the Cincinnati Reds' owner, as unobtrusive as any other little old lady you would see around batting practice Tuesday night while she sneaked clumps of dog hair in the hip pockets of four of her players.

And there was Ray Knight, the Reds' manager, using his 25th different lineup in as many games, apparently in an effort to see how many combinations he can come up with from 25 players.

But there was Jeff King, hitting a solo homer and then a grand slam for Pittsburgh, both in a nine-run fourth inning that trumped Schott's good-luck dog hair--don't ask--and rendered Knight's lineup the same as that of the previous seven games, losers, this time, 10-7, in Cincinnati.

Knight had called it a "must-win deal," perhaps strange for this early in the season, but perhaps not so strange when you are off to a miserable start.

So much for a "must-win deal."

"They just beat our brains out," Knight said. "They put nine runs on the board. That's amazing."

Not so amazing when you have King, only the third player in history--Andre Dawson in 1978 and '85 and Willie McCovey in '73 and '77 were the others--to hit two homers in an inning twice in a career. He did it last Aug. 8 against San Francisco.

"It's a strange game, to say the least," King said. "I would have been happy with a couple of base hits tonight. I haven't been swinging well. I'm as surprised as much as anybody.

"I didn't even realize it until I was on the field: 'Did I hit two in an inning again?' It was kind of funny."

Orlando Merced and Jacob Brumfield added solo homers to help Denny Neagle (3-1) get his first road victory of the season.

The Reds are in their deepest slump since September 1993, when they lost 12 in a row. They also started 9-16 that year under rookie manager Tony Perez, who was fired after 44 games.

"It's just a frustrating time now for everybody," said Tim Pugh, who gave up King's grand slam. "We just have to stay positive. I know it's pretty tough."

Pittsburgh sent 13 batters to the plate overall against John Smiley (1-3) and Pugh in the fourth inning, the first of which was King, whose homer ended a one-for-15 slump.

Atlanta 7, Houston 5--Chipper Jones hit a go-ahead two-run single in the ninth inning and Fred McGriff homered on the next pitch for the Braves, who won at Houston for their sixth victory in their last seven games.

John Smoltz (5-1) gave up three runs and five hits in eight innings and struck out 10, increasing his league-leading total to 51. Smoltz has held batters to a .171 average, best among NL pitchers.

McGriff was five for five.

Florida 7, Philadelphia 2--Pat Rapp (1-3) pitched eight shutout innings and received strong support from baseball's worst offense, that of the Marlins, who won before 15,252, their smallest home crowd in history.

Greg Colbrunn hit a three-run homer for Florida, which ranks last in the majors in runs scored and batting average. Charles Johnson also homered and drove in three runs, doubling his RBI total for the season.

Chicago 7, St. Louis 6--Robin Jennings' pinch-hit, two-out double gave him his first major league run batted in and beat reliever Dennis Eckersley in the ninth inning at Chicago.

Ray Lankford hit his second two-run homer of the game with two outs in the top of the ninth to tie the game, 6-6, against Turk Wendell (2-0).

Mark Grace then singled off Eckersley (0-2) with one out in the bottom half, Sammy Sosa struck out and Jennings lined a double off the wall in left field for the first earned run given up this season by Eckersley in 13 1/3 innings.

The Cardinals lost their fifth game in a row.

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