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GRISSOM STRUTS HIS STUFF AS EXPOS INCH WITHIN 3 GAMES OF THE PIRATES

In his team's biggest game of the season, Marquis Grissom showed why some have tabbed him for superstardom.

Grissom went 3 for 5, stole two bases and scored three times Wednesday night to lead Montreal past Pittsburgh, 6-3, moving the Expos within three games of the first-place Pirates in the NL East.Grissom singled, tripled and hit a home run. He also threw out a Pittsburgh runner as the Expos won for the fifth time in six games.

Grissom's performance tightened the pennant race and enhanced his reputation as one of baseball's budding superstars.

"I've watched Barry Bonds do it on a consistent basis the last four years," said Pittsburgh's Jay Bell. "Grissom gets a couple more years under his belt and he'll be a Barry Bonds-type player. He's definitely an impact player."

The two teams will play again Thursday before meeting in a two-game showdown next week in Montreal.

"It's a big win," understated Montreal's Darrin Fletcher who also homered. "Tomorrow is a big game, too. We'll just keep doing what we've been doing, taking them one game at a time. I know it's a cliche, but that is the way we have to do it."

Montreal has posted a 36-20 record since the All-Star break but the Expos have gained just one game on the Pirates. It seems that every time the Pirates lost, so did the Expos. When the Expos won, so did the Pirates.

"Our approach is just to go out and try and win every ballgame," Grissom said. "They've played well. It seems when we'd win, they'd win. Same for losing. But playing head-to-head is a different story."

The Expos tagged Pittsburgh starter Bob Walk, 9-6, for five runs and seven hits in 62/3 innings. The Pirates trailed 4-1 in the fifth inning and had their chances in the late innings, loading the bases in the seventh and eighth innings but failing to come up with the big hit.

"You want to have a battle situation," Bonds said. "You want to have to dig down inside and see what you are made of. It was a good game, there were some exciting moments. We gave them a good run. We just didn't come through."

Chris Nabholz evened his record at 10-10 for Montreal but remained perfect against the Pirates with his third win in as many starts. Nabholz allowed two runs - one earned - on six hits over 52/3 innings. Mel Rojas, Jeff Fassero and John Wetteland combined to pitch the last 31/3 innings with Wetteland going the last two innings for his 35th save.

Cubs 14, Phillies 9

At Chicago, Andre Dawson had four hits, including his 20th homer and four RBI, Ryne Sandberg belted a two-run homer and Dwight Smith drove in three runs for the Cubs. Greg Maddux, 18-11, scattered seven hits over six innings for the win, matching his career high in victories set in 1988. Dawson has hit at least 20 homers eight straight seasons.

Braves 3, Reds 2

At Cincinnati, Jeff Blauser clubbed a two-run homer in the eighth inning to give the Braves their 10th win in 11 games and reduce their magic number for clinching the NL West to eight. The win was the Braves' first after seven straight losses at Riverfront Stadium this season.

Cardinals 10, Mets 4

At New York, Ray Lankford blasted a three-run homer during a five-run eighth inning as the Cardinals rallied from a 4-1 deficit. The loss officially eliminated the Mets, baseball's highest paid team, from the pennant race.

Astros 3, Giants 1

At Houston, workhorse reliever Joe Boever pitched three no-hit innings, earning his second save of the season in his 73rd appearance. Darryl Kile, 4-10, picked up the win. Houston took a 2-0 lead in the first on Steve Finley's RBI triple and a run-scoring single by Luis Gonzalez.

Padres 3, Dodgers 1

At San Diego, Andy Benes pitched eight shutout innings and Gary Sheffield homered as the Padres averted a three-game sweep. Benes, 12-13, was reached for only four hits and Randy Myers earned his 35th save. Sheffield, bidding to become the major league's first triple crown winner since 1967, had two hits to up his league-leading average to .336. The homer was his 32nd, leaving him two behind teammate Fred McGriff in that category.