The Philadelphia Phillies looked as if they were going to run away with the National League East pennant last month, but the Montreal Expos have turned it into a race.
Rookie Kirk Rueter raised his record to 8-0 as the Expos won their seventh consecutive game, beating the St. Louis Cardinals, 12-9, Tuesday night at St. Louis.
The Expos who trailed Philadelphia by 14 1/2 games on Aug. 21, have won 16 of 17 to cut the lead to 4 1/2 games. Philadelphia lost, 5-4, at New York.
The Phillies play a three-game series in Montreal this weekend.
Expo Manager Felipe Alou said he knows “how Lazarus felt when he was revived.”
“We were declared dead and buried many times and here we are, alive, and we’re having fun,” Alou said. “We’ve got to enjoy this while it lasts because who knows how long it will last? Look what almost happened tonight.”
Moises Alou drove in three runs with a triple, double and two-run homer for the Expos.
Rueter started the year at double-A Harrisburg, where he was 5-0 with a 1.36 earned-run average. He was 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA at triple-A Ottawa before being called up July 6.
He has been even better with the Expos, winning his last six starts and giving up three runs in his last 20 2/3 innings. Rueter shut out the Cardinals until the seventh, when Gregg Jefferies led off with his 16th home run and Mark Whiten hit his first homer of the game with one out.
Playing in front of hundreds of fans from his tiny hometown of Hoyleton, Ill., about 50 miles southeast of St. Louis, Rueter worked seven innings and gave up five hits with two strikeouts and no walks in ending the Cardinals’ four-game winning streak.
He grew up a Cardinal fan and said it was a little nerve-racking pitching against them.
“I was a little scared when I threw to Ozzie (Smith) the first time, but it was OK after that,” Rueter said. “I didn’t want to look at him, but I heard his name when they announced him.”
Whiten homered from both sides of the plate, hitting his 23rd and 24th homers, for St. Louis. Whiten homered left-handed off Mel Rojas in the eighth and right-handed off Tim Scott in the seventh, becoming the first St. Louis player to homer from both sides of the plate since Ted Simmons did it at Dodger Stadium on June 11, 1979.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” said Whiten, who tied the major-league record with 12 RBIs and homered four times a week ago in Cincinnati. “I can’t say I felt as good as I did in Cincinnati.”
New York 5, Philadelphia 4--Jeff Kent blooped a bases-loaded single in front of Lenny Dykstra in the sixth inning and the ball bounced past the center fielder as another run scored, lifting the Mets past the slumping Phillies at New York.
Philadelphia has lost six of nine, and its late-season skid has raised the specter of 1964, when the Phillies led second-place St. Louis by 6 1/2 games with 12 to go, only to lose 10 in a row and blow the pennant.
Danny Jackson (12-11), who also lost to the Mets on Aug. 14, gave up four runs--only one earned--and five hits in six innings.
“In six innings they had two cheap hits. I can’t do anything about that,” Jackson said in a profanity-filled analysis. “I’ve been making the good pitches. All that crap keeps on happening.”
Phillie Manager Jim Fregosi agreed.
“Danny pitched outstanding. We just had a couple of miscues,” said Fregosi, who was ejected in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes.
Jackson sprained an ankle on wet turf after grounding out in the fifth inning, but remained in the game.
“I can’t come out of the game,” he said. “We’ve got a big game and a weekend series against Montreal. I can’t burn out the bullpen.”
To make things worse, Phillie left fielder Pete Incaviglia pulled his left calf muscle trying to stretch a single in the fourth inning. The Phillies don’t know the extent of the injury, but he will be out for at least today’s game.
“I can’t walk. That concerns me,” Incaviglia said after hobbling from the clubhouse shower to his locker. “I can’t walk, I can’t play.”
Phillie shortstop Kevin Stocker allowed the Mets to rally in the sixth when he let Eddie Murray’s two-out grounder with none on go through his legs for an error.
“I just misjudged the ball,” Stocker said. “He hit it pretty hard. I thought I would get it on the first hop, and it short-hopped me and went through my legs. That shows you what can happen with defense--one little error like that.”
Frank Tanana (7-15), who had lost three consecutive starts, gave up three runs and eight hits in six-plus innings, matched his season high with eight strikeouts and walked one. John Franco got five outs for his 10th save.
Pittsburgh 1, Florida 0--Carlos Garcia hit the first pitch of the game for a home run and Paul Wagner threw a six-inning shutout as the Pirates beat the Marlins in a rain-shortened game at Miami.
It was the first win since July 17 for Wagner (6-7) who gave up four hits, struck out five and walked three. He was credited with a complete game, the first of his career.
Chris Hammond (10-11), whose last win came on July 2, went the distance for Florida.
It was the first rain-shortened game for the Marlins, who lost their second consecutive 1-0 contest.
Colorado 9-6 Houston 4-5--Eric Young’s RBI single in the 10th inning of the second game gave the Rockies a sweep of their doubleheader at Denver.
Nelson Liriano reached first on an error by left fielder Luis Gonzalez to lead off the 10th. Liriano advanced to third on a sacrifice and an infield out and scored on Young’s single off reliever Xavier Hernandez (3-5).
Darren Holmes (3-3) pitched one inning for the win.
Colorado reliever Bruce Ruffin set a team record with nine strikeouts as the Rockies won the opener.