Expos 2, Pirates 1

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)—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.

“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 adouble play.

Notes

Montreal turned a nifty double play in the first, when Jack Wilson hit a hard grounder that bounced off the glove of Cabrera. It was picked up by 2B Carroll, who touched second and threw to first. … Roberto Clemente’s No. 21 was retired on Hiram Bithorn Stadium’s right-field wall in a brief ceremony before the game. Clemente’s widow, Vera, threw out the first pitch. … Montreal 1B Nick Johnson made two leaping catches of hard liners—one by Redman in the fifth, and another by Rob Mackowiak in the seventh. … Pittsburgh has gone a season-high 75 straight 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. … Attendance was7,746.

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