Jose Cruz drove in five runs with a pair of home runs Wednesday night as the Astros beat the Reds, 6-1, at Cincinnati to stretch their lead to nine games over the Reds.
The Reds and Astros are even in games against the rest of the league, but Houston has won 13 of 17 games from Cincinnati.
Manager Hal Lanier traced his club's dominance over the Reds to a three-game sweep at Riverfront Stadium in April, when Cincinnati was stuck in an early-season slump.
"At the start of the season, we came in here and won three straight," Lanier said. "Maybe that gave the club confidence that they could beat that club.
"At the start of the season, even I was picking Cincinnati. Maybe (the sweep) showed them they could play with Cincinnati."
Cruz, who didn't hit a home run until July 11, increased his total to nine with his first two-home run game since July 24, 1984. He said his two-run and three-run home runs off left-hander Chris Welsh (6-7) were just good fortune against a pitcher who is usually tough on left-handed batters.
"I was just lucky tonight," Cruz said. "Tonight was one of those nights. Tonight was my night."
Right-hander Danny Darwin (3-1) allowed just five hits. Darwin, acquired from Milwaukee on Aug. 15, struck out three and didn't walk a batter in his fifth National League start.
"I've never had the opportunity to be on a winner," Darwin said. "I want to make the most of it."
Montreal 6-1, Pittsburgh 5-4--Sid Bream hit a tie-breaking home run in the sixth inning of the second game to help the Pirates get a split with the Expos at Montreal.
Bream hit his 15th homer off Bob Sebra (4-5) after Barry Bonds doubled. Pittsburgh's Bob Kipper (5-7) allowed seven hits in 7 innings, struck out six batters and walked one. Don Robinson recorded his 12th save and doubled home an insurance run in the ninth.
In the opener, Andres Galarraga's two-run double off Barry Jones (2-4) capped a five-run seventh for the Expos.
Randy St. Claire (1-0) pitched two hitless innings in relief and Jeff Reardon finished the last two innings for his 34th save.
Pittsburgh jumped to a 5-0 lead Mike Diaz's two-run home run in the second inning and Jim Morrison's three-run home run in the fourth.
St. Louis 8, Philadelphia 5--Bob Forsch and rookie Todd Worrell combined on a six-hitter, and Forsch drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in a five-run fourth inning at Philadelphia as the Cardinals halted the Phillies' five-game winning streak.
Forsch (14-8) pitched 7 innings, and Worrell got his 34th save.
Earlier, the second-place Phillies were eliminated from the Eastern Division race when New York beat Chicago, 4-2, to clinch the title.
Lance McCullers (9-8), the fourth San Diego pitcher, went two innings to get the win. The loss prevented the Giants from moving into second place in the West.
Tony Gwynn hit his 14th home run for the Padres and Dan Gladden hit his third for the Giants.