The matchups couldn't have been more favorable for the New York Mets in their short showdown with the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the two-game series that began Wednesday night at New York between the two teams that dominate the National League East most of the time, the Mets had Ron Darling facing Rick Horton, with Frank Viola ready to face Ted Power in the second game today.
As Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog said, "It's two relief pitchers against two millionaires."
So far, it is the millionaires who are suffering.
With clutch-hitting Pedro Guerrero driving in two runs and the winning run coming in the eighth inning after an error by second baseman Gregg Jefferies, the Cardinals beat the Mets, 3-2, to move within a half-game of the stumbling Chicago Cubs.
Darling, although he gave up only one earned run in 7 1/3 innings, was the loser as the fourth-place Mets were beaten for the 10th time in their last 14 games. They are three games behind the surprising Cardinals and 3 1/2 behind the Cubs.
Horton didn't win it, but he kept the Cardinals in the game until the bullpen could win it.
It was a 2-2 game when Jefferies fumbled Ozzie Smith's grounder to start the eighth inning. Smith raced to third on Jose Oquendo's hit-and-run single. Guerrero, who doubled home the tying run in the sixth, hit the ground ball that sent Smith scurrying home.
Guerrero is batting .414 with runners in scoring position. He still hasn't become an outstanding baserunner, though. After doubling home Vince Coleman in the sixth, he tried to score on Terry Pendleton's single, but right fielder Darryl Strawberry threw him out at the plate.
"When I see men on base, I concentrate and try to bring them home; I guess that's what I'm here for," said Guerrero, who has driven in 97 runs. "Whitey told me just get 100. I'm getting there."
The Cardinals have won 16 out of 23 and are closer to first place than they have been since May.
Coleman opened the game with his 13th bunt single. He stole second, went to third on catcher Gary Carter's wild throw and scored on Oquendo's sacrifice fly. The steal gave Coleman a perfect 52 for 52 in steals against the Mets.
Ken Dayley, the fifth Cardinal pitcher, retired the last two Mets for his 13th save. Dayley has replaced the injured Todd Worrell as the big man in the bullpen.
There was some good news for the Cardinals, though. Worrell does not need surgery on his elbow and may return for the last 10 days of the season.
Philadelphia 9, Chicago 1--A five-run fifth inning proved to be a big cushion at Philadelphia, and Bruce Ruffin pitched an eight-hitter for his first complete game since May 8, 1988.
The loss cut the Cubs' lead over the Cardinals to a half-game and to only two over Montreal.
Darren Daulton and Dickie Thon each drove in three runs as the relaxed Phillies pounded Greg Maddux (16-11) for seven runs and 12 hits in 4 1/3 innings. Maddux, who has been the Cubs' most dependable pitcher in the second half of the season, had won 10 of his previous 13 decisions.
San Diego 3, Houston 2--The Giants may think they've won the West, but the Padres don't.
In this game at Houston, the Padres used bullpen ace Mark Davis for the fifth game in a row, stretched their winning streak to six straight and took over second place.
Davis got the final out for his 37th save, tops in the major leagues.
Calvin Schiraldi gave up just two hits and a run in six innings to win his debut for the Padres.
San Francisco 7, Atlanta 2--Will Clark hit a two-run home run in the first inning, and Scott Garrelts (12-3) pitched an eight-hitter as the Giants retained their six-game lead in the West.
Clark reached 100 runs batted in to become the second Giant to reach that mark. Kevin Mitchell, who returned after missing two games with a wrist injury, has 114.
The Giants have won six of their last seven games but haven't put away the Padres.
Montreal 11, Pittsburgh 6--Mark Langston didn't pitch well at Montreal, but he didn't have to, with the Expos in a hitting mood.
Hubie Brooks drove in four runs with a single and a three-run home run to build Langston a 6-0 lead in two innings.
Langston (11-6) gave up eight hits in six innings to end his three-game losing streak.