Even before he went out to pitch his third consecutive complete-game victory, right-hander Jose Rijo was talking as if the race in the National League West were over.
"No matter what Yogi said about it not being over, it's over," Rijo had said.
Then the Reds' starter went out and pitched the Reds to a 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves Wednesday night at Cincinnati. He finished with 11 strikeouts and had a shutout until Ron Gant hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning.
With the Dodgers' losing, the Reds' magic number is three. Cincinnati plays seven more games, all at home. Three of them are against Houston, the worst road team in the major leagues.
Eric Davis, who was two for four against Atlanta starter John Smoltz (13-11), led the Reds with three runs batted in. Cincinnati scored twice in the first inning when Davis singled in a run. He then added a two-run home run in the fifth.
Rijo (14-7), a hard-throwing right-hander who is often on the disabled list late in the season because of a chronic shoulder problem, has been the Reds' best pitcher in the stretch.
He is 6-1 with five complete games in his last seven starts. Fortunately for the Reds, he took over when Danny Jackson and Tom Browning had trouble.
Rijo was shaky in this one, giving up six hits in the first four innings. Then he settled down and retired 11 in a row before running into trouble in the eighth.
Rijo said maybe he had not been quite as confident as he sounded.
"I saw L.A. win last night and I said, 'Oh, there we go again,' " he said. "That put a little more pressure on me.
"I said I'd better do something tonight because I didn't want Yogi (Berra) to be right, I want to be the one who is right."
Manager Lou Piniella said, "Jose is pitching as well as any pitcher in baseball."