This odd-even thing with Bret Saberhagen keeps getting stranger and stranger.

To briefly recap: In odd-numbered years, Saberhagen has been one of baseball's best pitchers, going 74-30 overall with a 2.85 ERA. Among his accomplishments in that time are two Cy Young Awards, his only no-hitter and a trophy for being MVP of the World Series.In even years, however, he has been mediocre at best, going 36-48 with a 3.70 ERA for Kansas City. He's also made two of three trips to the disabled list during those times.

It had been that way for Saberhagen ever since he's been in the big leagues - the pattern includes his only season in the minors, too - and was something he wanted to try to change this year in his debut with the New York Mets.

Well, try again.

Saberhagen has begun 1992 with two more brutal starts, the most recent on Sunday when the Montreal Expos banged him for seven runs in 42/3 innings and beat up the Mets 8-2.

Saberhagen, acquired last winter in a major trade that sent Kevin McReynolds and Gregg Jefferies to Kansas City, at least lowered his ERA with his latest outing, from 27.00 to 18.00. He gave up seven runs in 21/3 innings at St. Louis in his first start

"Sooner or later I'll win, but I hope it's before I get chased out of New York," Saberhagen said. "The fans are tough and expect you to perform up to your capability. I haven't."

Saberhagen is 0-2 for the Mets and has allowed 14 earned runs on 15 hits and seven walks in seven innings. If it's any consolation, McReynolds and Jefferies haven't exactly starred for the Royals, combining for a .184 average with more errors (two) than RBIs (one).

"This isn't what I expected of Bret, but frankly, I think he's too keyed up," Mets manager Jeff Toroborg said. "He's trying to impress his teammates maybe too much. He's such a great competitor and he wants it badly."

Why Saberhagen has bounced back and forth from good to bad since his rookie season with the Royals in 1984 is unclear. Some say that he pitches a lot in odd years, gets tired out, and slumps the next season; others say the whole thing is purely coincidence.

The Expos, who won only four of 18 games against the Mets last season, swept the three-game series at Shea Stadium, outscoring New York 21-4.

Not since their first season in 1962, when they lost a record 120 games, had the Mets dropped their first three home games.

"I beat myself today," Saberhagen said, "and that's not something I usually do. There's nobody to blame but myself for this kind of start."

Ivan Calderon hit a two-run homer in the first inning for Montreal. He hit a two-run single during a five-run fifth inning, finishing Saberhagen.

Padres 5, Dodgers 4

Gary Sheffield drove in a career-high five runs, and his RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning won the game in San Diego.

Los Angeles scored four times in the ninth to tie it before Sheffield gave the Padres their third straight victory. Sheffield's error at third base helped the Dodgers' rally.

Kurt Stillwell led off the San Diego ninth with a single, moved up on a sacrifice and Tony Gwynn was intentionally walked with two outs. Sheffield, who earlier had a three-run homer and RBI single, lined a single to right off Roger McDowell (0-2).

Greg Harris shut out the Dodgers on two singles for eighth inning, and left in the ninth after a single and Sheffield's error. Randy Myers (1-0) gave up a two-run single by Mitch Webster with no outs and a tying, two-run single by Juan Samuel with two outs.

Braves 6, Giants 2

Tom Glavine lost his shutout in the ninth inning, but won the game in Atlanta.

Glavine, who blanked Houston on two hits on opening day, scattered six hits in eight innings against San Francisco. Two hits and an error by first baseman Sid Bream scored a run in the ninth and chased Glavine, and Marvin Freeman finished.

Glavine, the Cy Young winner, did not walk a batter and struck out six. He pitched through a 37-minute rain delay in the fourth inning.

Ron Gant hit a three-run homer and Terry Pendleton had a pair of RBI singles for the Braves. Deion Sanders singled off Kelly Downs (0-2) and scored in the first, and doubled and scored in the seventh.

Pirates 6, Phillies 1

Barry Bonds hit his fourth home run, backing Zane Smith's five-hitter for Pittsburgh's win in Philadelphia.

Bonds connected for the third straight game, a three-run drive in the sixth inning off Terry Mulholland (0-2). Bonds is 5 for 16 lifetime with four homers off Mulholland.

Smith (2-0) walked none, struck out six and got 15 outs on grounders. His only blemish was Ruben Amaro's third home run in the third inning.

Reds 5, Astros 4

Pitcher Tom Browning put Cincinnati ahead with a sacrifice fly and Bill Doran drove in three runs at the Astrodome.

The Reds scored four times in the fifth inning to overcome a 3-0 deficit. Doran hit a two-run double, Jeff Reed had an RBI grounder and Browning had a sacrifice fly.

Browning (2-0) went 52/3 innings and Norm Charlton worked the ninth for his third save. Jeff Bagwell opened the Houston ninth with his first home run.

Cubs 4, Cardinals 2

Hector Villanueva hit a three-run homer into a stiff breeze in the seventh inning, rallying Chicago at Wrigley Field.

It was 35 degrees at game time with a 20 mph wind blowing in from center field. Villanueva's shot barely carried into the left field basket.

Greg Maddux (2-0) doubled and scored Chicago's first run in the sixth inning. Heathcliff Slocumb pitched 12/3 innings for his first save. Omar Olivares (1-1) scored St. Louis' two runs.