NATIONAL LEAGUE ROUNDUP : At Home on the Road, Darwin Beats Pirates, 2-1

The Houston Astros are the worst road team in baseball--except when it is Danny Darwin's turn to pitch.

Darwin, who pitched out of the bullpen until July 1, has made himself at home wherever he has pitched since.

The 35-year-old right-hander pitched a five-hitter Tuesday night at Pittsburgh, and the Astros ended the Pirates' six-game winning streak, 2-1.

Darwin (9-1) has won eight in a row, the last seven as a starter. Four of the victories as a starter have been on the road. In games in which Darwin didn't start, the Astros are 15-44 away from the Astrodome.

In a career that began in Texas in 1978, Darwin has been a reliever more than a starter. He is something of a rarity in that he seems to be able to fluctuate between relieving and starting.

Darwin has an earned-run average of 1.54 in 10 starts. In one he gave up three runs, in another two. In all the others he has given one or none.

"It's all a little surprising to me," Darwin said. "I've been able to throw my curveball and split-fingered for strikes. But I'd still trade it all for first place. I'd rather be where these guys are."

Darwin was especially tough on the middle of the order--Bobby Bonilla, Barry Bonds and Andy Van Slyke. They were hitless in 11 at-bats.

Rookie Randy Tomlin matched Darwin for seven innings and had didn't allow a hit in his fourth major league start until Franklin Stubbs doubled with two out in the fifth. Tomlin left tied, 1-1, after seven innings, giving up just three hits.

But, in the eighth against Bob Patterson, Stubbs singled and, with one out, Darwin sacrificed. Eric Yelding singled home Stubbs with the winning run.

Jeff King hit his ninth home run in the third inning for the only Pirate run. Bill Doran hit sixth homer in the sixth to tie it.

The Pirates, who are barely .500 against the East, are 42-20 against the West.

Cincinnati 8, Chicago 1--Is the pressure of a tightening pennant race beginning to get to Lou Piniella, manager of the front-running Reds?

He objected vociferously to a call in this game with the Cubs at Cincinnati that was called after eight innings following a three-hour rain delay.

The Reds were in the process of ending a five-game losing streak, leading, 4-1, when Piniella erupted in the sixth inning.

Piniella, angered by a call at first base by umpire Dutch Rennert, pulled up first base, heaved it toward right field, retrieved it and threw it again. Naturally, he was ejected.

Despite the loss of Piniella, the Reds ended their skid behind the pitching of veteran Rick Mahler (5-5) and the hitting of Billy Hatcher.

Mahler, making his first start in a month, gave up five hits in seven innings, losing a shutout when Ryne Sandberg hit his 29th home run in the third inning.

Hatcher had a record-tying four doubles, scoring after three of them. He became the 18th major leaguer to get four doubles in a game.

After the game Piniella apologized for his base throwing. He said he is just frustrated over the slump.

San Diego 7, New York 0--Ed Whitson, given a four-run cushion in the first inning at San Diego, made sure the Mets didn't cut into Pittsburgh's lead in the East.

Whitson (10-7) gave up seven hits, struck out six and didn't walk a batter for his third shutout of the season.

Tony Gwynn singled in one run in the first inning and Benito Santiago tripled home two more.

Montreal 10, San Francisco 5--The Giants built a 4-0 lead at San Francisco, blew it in this loss to the Expos, and fell 7 1/2 games behind Cincinnati.

Mike Fitzgerald and Larry Walker hit home runs for Montreal, but it was a single by Dave Martinez that went through the legs of Giant first baseman Will Clark that drove in the winning run in the seventh.

Atlanta 7, St. Louis 2--Ron Gant and Andres Thomas hit home runs for the Braves at St. Louis to help John Smoltz improve his record to 10-9.

The Cardinals made three errors to contribute to the downfall of Joe Magrane (8-14).

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