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NATIONAL LEAGUE ROUNDUP : Pirates Show Reds That the East Is Strong

The Cincinnati Reds built their big lead in the National League West at the expense of the supposedly stronger East Division.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates arrived in Cincinnati for a four-game weekend series Friday, the Reds probably thought that they had just about wrapped up the pennant. After all, they had a nine-game lead and a 36-19 record against the East.

Bobby Bonilla hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning Sunday to send the Pirates to a 6-3 victory and their first ever four-game sweep at Riverfront Stadium.

The four wins not only solidified the Pirates’ grip on first place in the East, it made the Reds wonder if they really had wrapped up the West. Their lead was reduced to 6 1/2.

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Doug Drabek, with help from Stan Belinda, became the league’s first 16-game winner. Belinda bailed Drabek (16-5) out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh. Belinda gave up a two-run homer to Jeff Reed in the ninth, but got his seventh save.

Manager Lou Piniella wanted to rest his two overworked relievers, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers, in the series. But he probably wondered why he didn’t use Dibble in the sixth.

The Reds trailed, 2-1, but the Pirates had two on against struggling Jack Armstrong (12-9). Bonilla hammered a hanging change-up for his 28th home run, and third of the series.

“Dibble was ready. I chose to stay with Armstrong and obviously it was the wrong choice,” Piniella said. “You’ve got to show some confidence in your starting pitching once in awhile.”

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While Drabek is 7-1 since the All-Star break, Armstrong has lost six of his seven decisions since starting the All-Star game.

Drabek, who is only 6-5 against the East, is 10-0 against the West.

Jeff King also homered for the Pirates, who have won seven of their last eight.

New York 10, San Francisco 9--Dwight Gooden earned his 13th victory at San Francisco. His pitching hasn’t been too good, but the Mets give him more runs than any other starter in the majors gets--an average of more than seven runs per game.

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Kevin McReynolds hit two home runs and drove in six runs for the Mets, who remained two games behind Pittsburgh.

The Mets took a 10-2 lead, but Gooden couldn’t make it through the sixth. He left with one out after Ernest Riles hit a pinch grand slam.

Kevin Mitchell hit his 27th homer in the ninth and the Giants had the tying run on third when Jose Uribe grounded into a double play.

Chicago 5, Atlanta 4--His parents had spent three weeks watching rookie catcher Hector Villanueva play in the majors and were scheduled to return to Puerto Rico today.

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Villanueva made their stay worthwhile when he hit a two-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning at Chicago to give the Cubs the victory.

“They had been disappointed because they hadn’t seen me play much,” Villanueva said. “They’ll go home happy now.”

Villanueva’s seventh homer made a winner of Greg Maddux (11-10), who gave up 11 hits in eight innings.

St. Louis 7, Houston 3--With Pedro Guerrero hurt and Ozzie Smith needing a rest, it didn’t seem likely that Jose DeLeon was likely to end a two-month losing streak.

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But Dennis Walling, subbing for Guerrero at first, and Tim Jones, at short for Smith, hit home runs and DeLeon (7-12) ended a seven-game losing streak with his first win since June 17.

The Cardinals scored just 17 runs for DeLeon in his previous nine starts, but broke through for 10 hits and six runs off Mike Scott (9-12) in five innings. Scott, who hadn’t given up more than three earned runs in his previous seven starts, yielded three runs in the first inning.

Vince Coleman walked, stole second, moved to third on a fielder’s choice by Terry Pendleton and scored on Willie McGee’s infield single.

Walling followed with a 419-foot homer, his first of the season.

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Philadelphia 3, San Diego 2--Dennis Rasmussen, who had lost seven of his last eight decisions, had a 2-1 lead with one out in the eighth inning and it appeared that he would win at San Diego.

But his poor defense contributed to his defeat. With a chance at a double play, he fielded Dickie Thon’s grounder, but threw wide of second base. Then, second baseman Roberto Alomar bobbled a grounder to load the bases. Finally, Sil Campusano, batting only .192, hit a pinch-single to score two runs.


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