There are many theories on how to hit a knuckleball, yet most baseball people insist none of them work.

Reggie Sanders of the Cincinnati Reds apparently has some ideas of his own. He put one of them to use Tuesday night, and it led to the demise of Los Angeles flutterballer Tom Candiotti."I told myself to stay back," Sanders said after hitting a two-run homer in a decisive five-run fourth inning that led the Reds to a 5-3 victory over the Dodgers. "With a knuckleball, you can't go out and get it. You've got to let it come to you."

Candiotti knew he was in trouble as soon as he released the ball.

"I tried to throw a really good knuckler, and it came off my hand spinning a lot," he said. "When the ball spins a lot, that's just about as bad as you can throw the knuckler. I was hoping he would be late."

He wasn't, and as a result the Reds increased their lead in the National League Central to 11/2 games over Houston. The Astros lost to San Diego 5-4.

Despite the loss in Cincinnati, which evened their record at 56-56, the Dodgers lead San Francisco - a 3-2 winner over Chicago - by three games in the West with the baseball strike looming Friday.

Padres 4, Astros 3

Andy Ashby pitched a strong game and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning as visiting San Diego ended Houston's six-game winning streak.

Ashby (6-11) allowed six hits while striking out seven and walking one in eight innings. Trevor Hoffman gave a run in the ninth, but got his 19th save.

Ashby singled to start the eighth against Shane Reynolds (8-5), who then left the game after hitting Bip Roberts with a pitch. Derek's Bell's infield hit off Mike Hampton later in the inning scored Ashby from third.

Tony Gwynn went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .393.

Expos 4, Pirates 3

Visiting Montreal won for the 19th time in 21 games as Marquis Grissom stopped a 2-for-25 slump by going 4-for-5 with two RBIs.

Since losing four straight to San Francisco immediately after the All-Star break, the Expos (73-39) have been beaten just twice in three weeks and are 34 games over .500 for the first time in franchise history.

Marlins 5, Cardinals 3

Chuck Carr hit a two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning - the first victorious game-ending homer for the second-year Marlins, who snapped a seven-game home losing streak.

Phillies 5, Mets 1

Curt Schilling won at home for the first time since last year's World Series, pitching a five-hitter.

Mariano Duncan, who struck out four times Monday night, hit a two-run homer as the Phillies ended a five-game losing streak. Lenny Dykstra, who had been in a 4-for-28 slump, went 3-for-4.

Schilling (2-8) struck out five, walked one and retired 19 of the last 20 batters. It was his first complete game since he shut out Toronto in Game 5 of the World Series last October.

Giants 3, Cubs 2

San Francisco rallied to win when Darren Lewis hit a two-run, bases-loaded single off Randy Myers with two out in the top of the ninth inning.

Lewis, who struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh, singled to center to score pinch-runners Mike Benjamin and Bill Swift.

Braves 7, Rockies 4

Fred McGriff hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs, and Atlanta continued to dominate Colorado.

McGriff's third two-run homer in the last two games helped the Braves improve their record to 11-0 against the Rockies at Mile High Stadium. Overall, Atlanta has lost only once in 21 games against the second-year Rockies.

Atlanta, remaining six games behind NL East-leading Montreal, roughed up former Braves prospect David Nied (9-7) for two runs in the first inning and three in the third.