Friday, July 9, 2004

NL: Strong pitching gives Expos win

The Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Brian Schneider came up with the big hit just when the Montreal Expos needed it most.

Schneider hit a tiebreaking homer on a full count in the eighth inning off reliever John Grabow (0-3), and the Montreal Expos defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 Thursday night.

"I was not trying to hit a home run," Schneider said.

"I was trying to stay alive and just get on base."

Schneider's ninth homer made a winner of Luis Ayala (1-6), who replaced Tony Armas Jr. in the eighth.

Armas, making his seventh start since having surgery on his right shoulder May 23, 2003, allowed just two hits and no runners beyond first base through six innings.

The right-hander gave up one unearned run, four hits, walked two and struck out three but wound up with a no-decision.

"He shut people down," Expos manager Frank Robinson said.

"Very good job, excellent job by Armas tonight, and don't forget Ayala."

Ayala pitched a perfect eighth, and Chad Cordero worked the ninth for his sixth save.

"The confidence is back, and the pitches are coming down well," Ayala said.

Pittsburgh scored first in the seventh thanks to an error by shortstop Orlando Cabrera with two outs.

Craig Wilson and Tike Redman singled, and Wilson scored when Cabrera dropped a popup by Randall Simon in shallow left field.

Montreal tied it in the bottom half. Endy Chavez tripled to deep right off Wilson's outstretched glove and scored on Tony Batista's single to left that squeezed past diving shortstop Jack Wilson.

Pittsburgh starter Kris Benson faced the minimum 15 batters through the first five innings, retiring six consecutive hitters before walking Jamey Carroll to open the third.

Schneider hit into a double play, and Armas grounded out to end the inning.

Pittsburgh has gone a season-high 75 consecutive innings and eight consecutive games without making an error.

The Pirates turned two double plays and have 10 in the last seven games.

They lead the NL with 94.

"Both starters pitched really well," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said.

"It was a very good game, but we fell short."

In the fourth, Benson allowed Montreal's first hit of the game - a bloop single to shallow right field by Chavez. Batista followed by hitting into a double play.

Phillies 5, Mets 4

PHILADELPHIA - Bobby Abreu led off the ninth inning with a home run off John Franco to lead Philadelphia to victory.

Abreu hit the second pitch from Franco (2-5) the opposite way to left field.

Abreu, an All-Star for the first time, lost his helmet as he hit the plate and was mobbed by his teammates.

Abreu was 4-for-5 with two doubles, a single and two runs.

Billy Wagner (2-0) won with an inning of scoreless relief.

Jim Thome had his major-league leading 28th homer for the Phillies, and Mike Cameron connected for a home run for the Mets.

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