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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
It wasn't even September, but there was Pittsburgh's other lefthanded first baseman, John Milner, being carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates in a wild celebration. Milner had just pinch-hit a mammoth grand-slam home run off Tug McGraw to give the Pirates (5-3) a dramatic 12-8 win over Philadelphia in the first game of a doubleheader in Pittsburgh. The Pirates won the second game 5-2 to move ahead of Montreal into first place. McGraw was the victim of another Pirate slam, by Ed Ott, six days later. That homer came in a game that saw Pittsburgh overcome an 8-0 Philadelphia lead to win 14-11. McGraw's two big gopher balls—along with two other bases-loaded shots he allowed earlier in the year—put him in the record book alongside Detroit's Ray Narleski, who is the only other pitcher to give up four grand slams in a season.
After the Phillies' sixth straight loss, Manager Danny Ozark was feeling a little depressed. "I blame myself for everything that's happened," he said. "I don't know what else can happen, other than me taking a hike." Ozark stayed put, however, as Philadelphia (4-4) righted itself by taking all three games from the Expos. Montreal lost one of those games on a ninth-inning error and another by surrendering five unearned runs. In the same series Mike Schmidt hit his 39th homer, a career high. A crowd of 63,346, the largest in the regular season in the Phillies' history, came out to see a doubleheader with the Pirates. Philadelphia made the hometown fans happy with a victory in the first game on Bud Harrelson's single in the 12th, but Pittsburgh won the nightcap 3-2.
St. Louis (7-2) edged to within five games of the Pirates before Chicago stopped the Cardinals' seven-game winning streak. The Cards picked on the scrawny Mets for four wins, and then swept a doubleheader from the Cubs, 13-8 and 5-3. Bob Forsch won twice and John Denny pitched a two-hitter, but the biggest boosts came from Jerry Mumphrey and Keith Hernandez. Mumphrey hit .586 with nine RBIs, three of which came on an in-side-the-park homer. Hernandez went 16 for 36 with five doubles and 10 RBIs to take over the lead in the league batting race with a .342 average. Lou Brock had four hits, leaving him four short of 3,000.
Steve Dillard had a grand total of two home runs in four previous seasons with the Red Sox and Tigers, so his show of power for the Cubs (4-4) came as a considerable surprise. Dillard hit three homers, drove in nine runs and batted .478. Manager Herman Franks, who installed Dillard at second base when Ted Sizemore stopped hitting, remained unimpressed. "What's the big deal?" Franks said. "I hit .667 one day."
The Expos (3-5) were puzzled over the disappearance of Ross Grimsley, at least the Ross Grimsley who won 20 games for them last year. The Mets chased him twice, the second time after only a third of an inning, and his record fell to 8-8. The bright spots for Montreal were four homers in four days by Ellis Valentine and Rusty Staub's first home run for the Expos since he left Montreal eight years ago. The Mets (2-7) sank to 18 games out of first. Craig Swan's seven-hitter broke a five-game losing streak.
PITT 66-49 MONT 63-49 CHI 60-52 ST.L 59-54 PHIL 60-57 NY 47-66
With only 137 shopping days left, Houston Pitcher Joe Niekro had a thought: "Winning 20 games sure would be a nice Christmas present for my parents. A division title would be nice, too." Niekro and the Astros (3-2) both made Christmas Club deposits last week. Niekro's 2-1 victory over Atlanta made him the first pitcher to win 16 games this season, and Houston stayed 4� games ahead of second-place Cincinnati. Joe's brother Phil could give their parents a matching present because he has 14 wins for the Braves. Unfortunately. Phil also has 15 losses, which means he could become the first National Leaguer since Irving Young of the 1905 Boston Beaneaters to win 20 and lose 20.
Generous Joe Niekro also had a present for Astro Reliever Joe Sambito. Sambito gets a free dinner every time he saves one of Niekro's victories, and he earned his fifth freebie for his performance against Atlanta. "I like to help Joe," said Sambito, who's seven years younger than the 34-year-old Niekro. "It reminds me of helping my father with the lawn." J. R. Richard didn't need any assistance in beating the Dodgers for the 10th straight time, 4-1. He allowed six hits, struck out 12 and drove in two runs. In an earlier 3-2 win over the Braves, the Astros set a club record with seven steals—by five different players—even though they only had 11 base runners.