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NATIONAL LEAGUE ROUNDUP : Home Run by Gant Propels Braves, 7-2

In late June, the Atlanta Braves’ David Justice and Sid Bream, who had been providing most of the power, were sidelined because of injuries and the Braves had fallen to seven games out of first place.

That is when Ron Gant stepped forward. Gant, along with Terry Pendleton, has provided the punch that has kept the Braves in the race.

Gant hit his 24th home run and drove in three runs Friday night at Atlanta to lead the Braves to a 7-2 victory over the Houston Astros.

The home run moved Gant into a tie for the league lead with Howard Johnson of the Mets. It also helped Steve Avery (13-5) get his fifth consecutive victory.

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Avery gave up seven hits and both runs in 7 1/3 innings and Juan Berenguer finished.

When Justice and Bream--neither of whom are back--went out, Gant was hitting .210, had 12 home runs and 32 runs batted in in 65 games. The Braves are 24-18 since, and in those 42 games Gant has hit 12 home runs and driven in 38 runs while increasing his average to .272.

“Ron has done the job for us,” Manager Bobby Cox said. “We have grown to expect him to come through when we need it most.”

Philadelphia 5, Montreal 4--It is a little too late for them to make an impression in the pennant race, but stopper Mitch Williams and the Phillies are on a roll.

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Dickie Thon’s sacrifice fly in the eighth inning at Philadelphia gave the Phillies their 10th consecutive victory. It was Williams’ fifth victory in the streak.

The Phillies, who overcame a 3-1 deficit when Ricky Jordan hit a three-run double in the seventh, have broken ties in the late innings in four of the last five games.

“I never even won five games in a season before,” Williams said. “I would have rather gotten a save.”

St. Louis 5, Pittsburgh 1--It isn’t often the Cardinals rely on power to win, but Todd Zeile and Ozzie Smith hit home runs at Pittsburgh to give Bryn Smith his 100th major league victory.

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It was the 11th loss in the last 13 games for the Pirates and cut their lead over the Cardinals to four games in the East.

Zeile, the club leader, hit his ninth home run of the season, a two-run smash in the fourth inning. Ozzie Smith, who usually hits one or two home runs per season, hit his first in the seventh.

Bryn Smith, anything but a power pitcher, tantalized the overanxious Pirates with an assortment of off-speed pitches.

Pirate Manager Jim Leyland has said throughout the slump that there was nothing to worry about. He seemed to be singing a different tune.

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“We’ve got to start hitting better, pitching better, running the bases better, managing better and coaching better,” Leyland said. “Until we do, we’re going to keep struggling. It’s not any of those things, it’s all of them.”

Chicago 5, New York 4--Early in the season, David Cone was the Mets’ most effective pitcher. His slump is one reason the Mets are having trouble making a move in the East.

The Cubs pounded Cone (10-9) for all of their runs and nine hits before he retired a batter in the fifth inning.

In his last five starts, Cone has been shelled in four. The exception was a three-hitter against the Dodgers last month. In the other four games he pitched 16 1/3 innings, giving up 30 hits and 26 runs and losing all four.

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Although the Mets scored twice in the ninth to pull within a run, Greg Maddux (10-6) went the distance. He got Mark Carreon to hit into a double play to end the game.

Maddux also shocked the Mets by beating out a bunt and stealing a base to highlight a three-run burst in the third inning.

“Greg must have had too much coffee before the game,” Cub Manager Jim Essian said. “He was really ready to roll.”

Cincinnati 5, San Diego 1--Mo Sanford made his major league debut at San Diego and gave a much needed lift to the Reds’ pitching staff.

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Sanford, who struck out the side in the first inning, gave up only two hits and struck out eight in seven innings to help the Reds end a three-game losing streak.

Former Padre Carmelo Martinez hit a home run and Glenn Braggs drove in two runs to help the rookie pitcher.


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