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NATIONAL LEAGUE ROUNDUP

Smoltz Becomes Majors' First 11-Game Winner

May 30, 1996|From Associated Press

John Smoltz pitched so well Wednesday that he didn't need any help from the strong winds blowing in at Wrigley Field.

Smoltz became the majors' first 11-game winner, throwing a four-hitter to lead the Atlanta Braves over the slumping Chicago Cubs, 2-0.

Smoltz said teammate Greg Maddux told him to concentrate on his pitching and not think about the winds at Wrigley Field, where a 25-mph gust could have created havoc for anyone chasing a fly ball.

"You look at those flags and you could find yourself just throwing it and not pitching," Smoltz said. "The first couple of innings, I didn't know if I was going to throw too many strikes."

Smoltz (11-1) won his 11th in a row since losing his first start of the year against San Francisco on April 4. He walked two and matched his season high with 13 strikeouts, raising his National League-leading total to 97. His ERA is 2.24.

He also had a fifth-inning RBI single as the Braves handed the Cubs their sixth loss in a row and the ninth in their last 10 games.

"The second run was huge," Smoltz said. "Anything in the air was a question. I don't care what kind of outfielder you are, it was tough."

Houston 7, Pittsburgh 4--Jeff Bagwell hit two homers, one into Three Rivers Stadium's seldom-reached upper deck, and drove in five runs for the Astros.

Bagwell's four-for-five night included a solo drive into the left-field upper deck in the fourth, a go-ahead two-run double in the seventh and a two-run homer in the ninth. He now has 18 homers.

Bagwell has rebounded from something of an off year--he hit 21 homers in 1995--and his third broken hand in as many seasons to bat .354 with 18 homers and 55 RBIs. He is on track for his biggest season since he hit .368 with 39 homers and a league-high 116 RBIs in the strike-shortened 1994 season.

Eight players have combined to hit 12 upper-deck drives in Three Rivers' 27-season history, with Willie Stargell (four) and Bagwell (two) the only players to do it more than once.

Bagwell also hit an upper-deck shot to left estimated at 472 feet off Pittsburgh's Bob Kipper on May 5, 1991.

Montreal 9, San Diego 4--Rookie Ugueth Urbina pitched seven strong innings at Montreal and Henry Rodriguez hit his league-leading 19th home run as the Expos ended a five-game losing streak.

Urbina (3-0) held San Diego to six hits over seven innings. He walked none and struck out two in his longest outing in seven major league starts.

Rickey Henderson and Steve Finley homered for the Padres, who lost for the fifth time in 17 games.

San Francisco 4, New York 2--William VanLandingham scattered five hits over seven innings and Matt Williams hit a two-run triple as the Giants won at New York.

VanLandingham (3-7), who had lost two in a row and three of his last four decisions, struck out six and walked one.

Rod Beck pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for his 14th save in 15 opportunities.

Jason Isringhausen (2-7) lost his fifth consecutive game, giving up four runs and six hits in eight innings.

St. Louis 6, Colorado 5--Luis Alicea hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning and Andy Benes made only the second relief appearance in his career as the Cardinals beat the Rockies for the first time in eight games at St. Louis.

Benes, whose last relief appearance was on Aug. 14, 1990, when he was with San Diego, entered the game in the ninth with runners on first and third and got the final out for his first major league save.

Benes came in from the bullpen because St. Louis' closer, Dennis Eckersley, is on the disabled list.

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