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Padres Know How to Come From Behind

<i> From Associated Press</i>

The San Diego Padres are off to a fast start, mostly because they’ve mastered the art of the strong finish.

Greg Vaughn hit a tie-breaking two-run homer as the Padres opened a three-run lead, fell behind by two runs, then rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-5, Friday night at Pittsburgh for their 10th victory in 11 games.

The Padres withstood Joey Hamilton’s subpar start to improve the majors’ best record to 13-3. And they did it in a ballpark where they usually struggle, winning only 69 of 172 since Three Rivers Stadium opened in 1970.

San Diego still hasn’t lost this season when leading as late as the sixth inning.

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“In years past, it would have been tough for us to come back,” said Tony Gwynn, who had a double and drove in a run. “This was a good win for us because this is a place where historically we don’t have a lot of success. I don’t know how many times we’ve had a lead here and lost it. When they got up 5-3, I thought, ‘Here we go again.’ ”

The Pirates shook up their batting order--Al Martin and Jason Kendall changed positions--to score five runs after managing only one during a three-game sweep by Atlanta. But they still lost their fifth in a row.

Hamilton, who usually breezes any time he pitches a strong first inning, contributed a two-run single as the Padres took a 3-0 lead in the second against Jason Schmidt. But Hamilton left after giving up five runs and seven hits in four innings, his shortest outing this season.

Hamilton, who is 2-0, had previously yielded eight runs in the first inning of his four starts, but only two runs from the second inning on.

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St. Louis 8, Philadelphia 5--Mark McGwire hit his major league-leading eighth home run and pinch-hitter Ron Gant broke a fifth-inning tie with a three-run homer to power the Cardinals at St. Louis.

All of McGwire’s home runs have come at home. Since the Cardinals acquired him from Oakland last July 31, he has 21 homers in 33 games at Busch Stadium. With 112 at-bats in St. Louis, he is averaging a home run every 5.3 at-bats there.

Tom Lampkin also homered for the Cardinals. St. Louis, which entered the game tied for the league lead in homers, have 23 in 16 games. They also lead the league with 108 runs.

Houston 5, Montreal 3--John Halama got his first major league victory on his fourth try and Craig Biggio drove in two runs with a homer and a double at Houston.

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Houston broke a 2-2 tie with two runs in the fifth off Dustin Hermanson (1-2), helping drop Montreal to 4-11. The Expos made three errors--two by third baseman Shane Andrews--leading to two unearned runs.

Halama (1-1), who lowered his earned-run average from 9.45 to 7.08, gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings with five strikeouts and one walk.

Cincinnati 4, New York 3--Barry Larkin drove in two runs and scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning at Cincinnati.

Larkin, who hit a double and triple, scored on Dmitri Young’s single off Met ace Bobby Jones (0-2), who gave up six hits and four runs in six innings.

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Mike Remlinger (2-2) gave up four hits in seven-plus innings. Jeff Shaw pitched the eighth and ninth for his fifth save.

Remlinger didn’t yield a hit until the fourth inning when Butch Huskey doubled, but he gave up a run in the first when he couldn’t find the strike zone. He walked Edgardo Alfonzo and John Olerud. After Bernard Gilkey’s sacrifice, Alfonzo scored on Huskey’s fly out to right.

Arizona 7, Florida 5--The Diamondbacks won consecutive games for the first time as Matt Williams’ run-scoring infield single sparked a three-run eighth inning at Phoenix.

With the score 4-4, Devon White reached on a bad-hop single off Vic Darensbourg and stole second. Jay Bell was intentionally walked and Travis Lee walked, loading the bases.

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Williams followed with a grounder deep behind the bag at second and Craig Counsell couldn’t get the force at second. Yamil Benitez followed with a two-run single.

Atlanta at Colorado--The game was postponed by a combination of rain and snow with the score 1-1 in the middle of the third inning.

The game was delayed 2 hours, 18 minutes before umpires finally called it. The grounds crew twice began to remove the tarp, but a recurrence of precipitation prevented resumption.

There was no immediate word on when the game would be made up.

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