NATIONAL LEAGUE ROUNDUP : Mercker Ends Braves' Slide Against Expos

From Associated Press

Kent Mercker did something Wednesday that John Smoltz and Greg Maddux couldn't do earlier in the week--stop the Montreal Expos.

Mercker, Atlanta's fifth starter, pitched seven strong innings and Jeff Blauser hit a two-run home run as the Braves defeated Montreal, 4-1, at Atlanta to avoid a three-game sweep and move within 2 1/2 games of the Expos in the East Division.

Atlanta's victory, only its fourth in 11 games, ended the Expos' eight-game winning streak, their longest of the season.

"You want to be the stopper when you're in a skid," Mercker said. "It was good to get the win. To be 4 1/2 games out, it wouldn't have been over, but it would have been much tougher."

Houston 7, Cincinnati 1--Jeff Bagwell hit his 34th home run and singled home the go-ahead run in the 12th inning to lead the Astros at Cincinnati.

Bagwell's single off Scott Service (0-2)--his major league-leading 103rd run batted in--started a six-run rally that moved the Astros into a first-place tie with the Reds in the Central Division.

"Bagwell did what he's done all year," said Astro Manager Terry Collins. "I think right now he's the best player in the league."

The Astros got 8 1/3 strong innings from Doug Drabek and Bagwell's fourth homer in four games, but had to go extra innings because of two errors by Andujar Cedeno. The shortstop muffed routine grounders with two outs in the third to let in an unearned run.

New York 7, St. Louis 4--Bobby Bonilla hit two two-run home runs, including the tiebreaking shot in a four-run eighth inning, as the Mets completed a three-game sweep at St. Louis.

Bonilla, who also had a two-run homer in the fourth inning, had his 16th career two-homer game and his second this season. Tim Bogar added a two-run homer in the eighth and Ryan Thompson had a solo shot in the ninth.

Rookie Jason Jacome (4-1) won his fourth straight start, working seven innings and allowing four runs on seven hits. He struck out five and walked four. John Franco pitched the ninth for his 25th save.

Pittsburgh 9, Chicago 4--Rick White won for the first time as a major league starter, limiting the Cubs to two hits over six innings at Pittsburgh.

Tom Foley had four runs batted in and three of the Pirates' 16 hits, giving him 11 hits in his last 18 at-bats, and Don Slaught was three for four with two RBIs. White (3-5) allowed an unearned run, struck out five and walked none in his third start.

Philadelphia 3, Florida 1--Bobby Munoz pitched a two-hitter for his first career complete game to help the Phillies complete a three-game sweep of the Marlins at Miami.

Munoz (7-3) did not allow a walk and didn't give up a hit after Benito Santiago's homer with one out in the second inning. The other hit by Florida was Chuck Carr's single in the first inning.

Pat Rapp (6-6) took the loss, allowing eight hits and three earned runs in eight innings.

San Diego 9, Colorado 2--Eddie Williams had a three-run homer and four runs batted in for the Padres at San Diego.

With a chance to move into a tie with the Dodgers in the West Division, the Rockies dropped to third place--a game behind the Dodgers and a half-game behind San Francisco.

Joey Hamilton (7-5) gave up one run and three hits in six innings and had seven strikeouts. Dante Bichette hit solo home runs in the first and eighth, giving him 25 for the season.

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