Fred McGriff and Terry Pendleton teamed for five hits, three home runs and nine runs batted in in only two innings, and the Atlanta Braves routed the Montreal Expos, 18-5, Tuesday night at Montreal to break open both National League races.
The Braves’ victory, coupled with San Francisco’s 6-0 loss at Houston, put them 3 1/2 games ahead in the NL West. The Expos’ loss, combined with Philadelphia’s 5-3 victory over Florida, dropped them 5 1/2 games behind in the NL East. The Braves’ magic number to clinch is nine and Philadelphia’s is seven.
Atlanta has won 32 of 39 and the loss was only Montreal’s fourth in 23 games.
Otis Nixon doubled on the second pitch of the night, and Atlanta kept hitting as it tied a team record for runs. The Braves hit three home runs, two by Pendleton and a grand slam by McGriff, and six doubles. “It started with Otis getting the hit and it went on from there,” Pendleton said. “I don’t know if there was a message to be sent. We’re just going out and proving to ourselves that we can play.”
By the end of the evening, the game was so out of hand that it looked like a spring exhibition in West Palm Beach, where the teams share the same training site, rather than a game down the stretch with pennants at stake.
“I guess we’re going to have to go over their hitters again,” Montreal Manager Felipe Alou said.
“We could have gotten beat, 1-0, and still lost a game to the leaders. This is not a game that will lose the season for us. But it’s not nice to get pounded like that.”
The Expos actually led, 3-1, going into the fourth inning, but then the Braves turned on the power and got the biggest of their 16 hits.
McGriff led off with a double, David Justice walked and Pendleton homered. An error by third baseman Mike Lansing, ruled to have come off the bag early on a force play, gave the Braves an extra out, and they took advantage when Jeff Blauser hit a sacrifice fly and Gant lined a two-run double.
That finished Ken Hill (9-6), and McGriff capped the seven-run outburst--the Braves’ biggest of the season--with an RBI single off Butch Henry for an 8-3 lead.
Houston 6, San Francisco 0-- Mark Portugal threw a three-hitter and tied a franchise record at Houston with his 10th consecutive victory as the Astros ended the Giants’ four-game winning streak.
Portugal (16-4) didn’t give up a hit until Kirt Manwaring’s third-inning single. Portugal, whose previous longest winning streak was seven games, struck out six and walked one.
Beating the Giants is nothing new for Portugal, who has an 11-3 lifetime record against them. He’s 8-1 against them in the Astrodome with a 1.65 earned-run average.
Philadelphia 5, Florida 3--Lenny Dykstra’s two-run homer in the seventh inning rallied the Phillies at Philadelphia.
The Phillies trailed, 3-2, in the seventh when Kevin Stocker walked to open the inning and scored from first on a sacrifice bunt-error. Reliever Rick Rodriguez fielded pinch-hitter Ruben Amaro’s bunt but hit Amaro with his throw.
Dykstra followed with his 19th homer.
John Kruk, who had been in a nine-for-49 slump, had three hits for the second consecutive game and drove in two runs.
Colorado 15, San Diego 4-- Andres Galarraga went four for six with two doubles and Jerald Clark drove in three runs as the Rockies won at Denver.
The victory, Colorado’s 63rd, ensured the Rockies of avoiding 100 losses in their inaugural season. It also moved them within one victory of matching Houston in 1962 for the most victories by a National League expansion team.
Galarraga, who needs 36 plate appearances in the final nine games to qualify for the NL batting title, raised his average to .381.
Chicago 13, St. Louis 3--Rick Wilkins and Mark Grace each drove in three runs as the Cubs won at Chicago.
Wilkins had a two-run single and Dwight Smith a two-run triple in the first for the Cubs, who had their first seven batters score. Chicago, which had 16 hits, sent 11 hitters to the plate in the first and again in a six-run sixth.
New York 4, Pittsburgh 3--Dave Gallagher drove in three runs with a homer and a double as the Mets won at Pittsburgh. The Mets ended an 11-game losing streak at Three Rivers Stadium.