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National League Roundup : Astros Beat Giants but Fail to Gain on Dodgers

For a few minutes Sunday at San Francisco, the Houston Astros were a happy group of baseball players.

They had just beaten the Giants, 4-1, and were all excited because the Dodgers were losing in the ninth inning at Los Angeles and the best relief pitcher in the league, John Franco, was pitching against them.

There was nothing but gloom when Jeff Hamilton hit a two-out home run to give the Dodgers the victory. Instead of heading for Cincinnati for a three-game showdown four games out of first, they are five back with only 19 games to play.

They are now in a position where they almost have to sweep the Reds. It is a precarious position because they have six more defeats than the Dodgers and play them only two more times.

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Before the letdown, Jim Deshaies (10-12) had pitched a four-hitter to all but end the Giants’ hopes of repeating in the West. Billy Hatcher, Craig Biggio and Buddy Bell hit home runs to drop the light-hitting Giants 10 games behind the Dodgers.

Atlee Hammaker, who has pitched brilliantly against the Astros this season, gave up only 5 hits in 8 innings, but fell to 7-8. In 3 starts he has an 0.70 ERA against the Astros.

The only run off Deshaies came in the fourth when Will Clark drew his 89th walk, took third on a single and scored on Bob Melvin’s sacrifice fly.

Before the Dodgers dropped the bomb, the Astros were praising Deshaies and rookie catcher Biggio. Biggio, a .202 hitter with only two runs batted in in his first 36 games, hit his second home run in the third inning in his first at-bat in two weeks. He also had a double and a single and stole a base.

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“I’m just happy to come off the bench and contribute,” Biggio said.

It was only 2-1 going into the eighth when Bell hit his sixth home run and the 200th of his career. In the ninth Biggio doubled in the extra run.

“I’d like to be where the Astros are,” said Giant Manager Roger Craig after the Giants’ 14th loss in the last 18 games.

New York 3, Montreal 0--In a league in which there are only five players batting more than .300, it is not surprising that pitching is king.

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And it’s the Mets who have the pitching. Bob Ojeda held the fading Expos to five hits at Montreal and pitched the Mets to their 22nd shutout, easily tops in the majors. Mets’ pitching held the Expos scoreless in the last 22 innings and swept the series.

Ojeda (10-13) struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter. It was his fifth complete game, all shutouts.

Kevin McReynolds provided the offense as the Mets moved to a magic number of 12. McReynolds hit his 21st homer and singled to drive in all the runs.

Dennis Martinez (15-12) lost for the fifth time in the last six decisions. The Expos scored three runs in the five losses and were shut out in three of them.

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St. Louis 3, Chicago 2--Although the Cardinals long ago lost any chance of winning the East, they are enjoying a late-season spurt.

All-Star shortstop Ozzie Smith is enjoying it more than most. Smith won a battle of wits with Cub Manager Don Zimmer in the seventh inning at St. Louis and thereby won a place in the record books.

Smith, right after Zimmer called a pitchout, laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to break a 2-2 tie and produce the game-winning hit for the fourth consecutive game.

San Diego 8, Atlanta 2--Marvell Wynn, a last-minute substitute for ailing Tony Gwynn, hit a grand slam to cap a seven-run second inning at San Diego that enabled the Padres to breeze again.

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That outburst was easily enough runs for hot Dennis Rasmussen. The left-hander pitched hitless ball for 5 innings and improved his record to 12-2 since the Padres obtained him from Cincinnati June 8.

Lonnie Smith’s single in the sixth was the only hit for the Braves when Rasmussen injured his wrist and left after seven innings. The injury was not serious.

Philadelphia 7, Pittsburgh 4--Juan Samuel hit a two-run home run and the Phillies ended a four-game losing streak at Pittsburgh.

Phil Bradley doubled, walked and scored twice to help rookie Marvin Freeman win his second game in a row.

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John Smiley lost for the sixth time in eight decisions since the All-Star game and the Pirates fell 10 games behind the Mets.


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