While maintaining at least some pressure on the Pittsburgh Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals have also managed to continue the development of their youth movement.
After finishing last in the National League East in 1990, this was the year the Cardinals were going to rebuild. But even in a rebuilding season, the Cardinals still offered the only real opposition to the Pirates.
The Cardinals would need a complete collapse by the Pirates to win, but meanwhile their young players are developing rapidly.
Two of them, Ray Lankford and rookie left-hander Rheal Cormier, led the Cardinals to a 7-2 victory over the New York Mets Sunday at St. Louis.
Lankford hit for the cycle and Cormier (3-3) pitched a complete game despite 93-degree heat and 90% humidity as the Cardinals strengthened their hold on second place and moved to within 9 1/2 games of the Pirates.
Lankford, also establishing himself as a fine defensive center fielder as a rookie, had the only Cardinal hit Saturday night, a two-run single in a 2-1 victory.
Lankford doubled, stole third and scored in the first, singled and scored in the third, tripled and scored in the fifth and hit a 412-foot home run to center field in the seventh.
The last Cardinal to hit for the cycle was Willie McGee, Lankford's predecessor, in 1984.
"That's some 24 hours," Cardinal Manager Joe Torre said.
Cormier gave up nine hits, but a Met didn't reach second until the seventh, when Howard Johnson doubled.
Met starter Pete Schourek (3-4) had a one-hitter in his previous outing, but this was a disaster. Before departing in the sixth, he gave up nine hits and six runs.
Philadelphia 8, Pittsburgh 3--One of the bright spots of an otherwise disappointing season for the Phillies has been Tommy Greene.
Greene held the Pirates to five hits in 7 2/3 innings at Philadelphia to improve to 11-7 and end the Phillies' four-game losing streak.
Greene also had two hits, but on a hot, humid day, running the bases wasn't helpful. Mitch Williams finished up to earn his 27th save.
"I'm just going out there and going hard every time," Greene said. "I know I'm making progress."
The Pirates, breezing to the pennant, rested Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke and Steve Buechele.
Cincinnati 10, Houston 0--Jose Rijo pitched seven shutout innings at Cincinnati for his sixth consecutive victory and improved to 14-4.
Mariano Duncan is about the only other hot Red. The former Dodger infielder hit his sixth home run in the last six games.
Rijo gave up five hits and struck out seven on a humid day to improve his record against the Astros to 8-1.
San Francisco 7, San Diego 2--John Burkett gave up one run in eight innings at San Francisco and when Steve Decker hit a fluke bases-loaded triple, Burkett ended a personal five-game losing streak.
Willie McGee went four for four and drove in two runs for the Giants. The key hit, though, came in the first when right fielder Oscar Azocar tripped and fell chasing Decker's two-out fly ball.
Montreal 6, Chicago 5--Mike Fitzgerald is batting only .189, but he can be dangerous in the clutch.
With the bases loaded and two out in the 10th inning at Chicago, reliever Bob Scanlan walked him to force in the winning run.