With two teams playing their best baseball ever and two more their best of this decade, smiles are commonplace these days in the National League.

And then, there are the Cubs.They are far cry short of the early-season accomplishments of the Marlins, Rockies, Dodgers and Giants. In fact, they're even a far cry short of their usual frustrating selves.

"Whatever can go wrong has . . ." center fielder Brian McRae said after Chicago tied the modern day NL record for season-opening futility by losing its 10th straight game.

And Sunday's 6-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves hurt more than their collective egos. Second baseman Ryne Sanberg went from the dugout to the hospital after he was struck in the head by a foul liner off the bat of teammate Brant Brown.

Sandberg underwent tests and received stitches for a cut on his right ear. The injury was not considered serious, manager Jim Riggleman said.

The same can't be said for the condition of his team.

"It's kind of the way things are," Riggleman said. "It's up to us to change things."

There is, however, a bright light or two. The Cubs, whose run is second only to the NL-worst 0-11 start by something called the Detroit Wolverines in 1884, remain 11 games shy of the Baltimore Orioles' major league-worst 0-21 beginning in 1988.

And then there's the assessment of Atlanta pitcher Tom Galvine, part of the Braves team that went 0-10 to start that same season.

"Our team was nowhere as good as the Cubs are," he said.

Elsewhere Sunday:

- San Francisco swept New York 5-1 and 7-6 to rise to 7-3, its best start since the 1989 pennant-winning season.

- NL West leader Los Angeles went to 8-3 - its best beginning since the World Series championship season of 1988 - with a 14-5 victory over Pittsburgh.

- Despite an 8-3 loss to Montreal that left them 7-3, the Colorado Rockies are off to their best start.

- So are the Florida Marlins, 8-3 even though they lost 6-4 to Cincinnati.

- San Diego, last in the NL West with a 7-4 mark, beat Philadelphia 3-1.

Glavine, who didn't figure in the decision at Wrigley Field, knows exactly how the Cubs feel.

"They just need that first win," he said. "Otherwise those guys will start coming to the park thinking, `What's going to go wrong today?"'

Actually, it's not that much of a mystery.

Chicago committed three more errors Sunday - the Cubs have 17 in 10 games - and Atlanta scored two decisive unearned runs in the eighth inning.

Jeff Blauser singled and pinch-hitter Keith Lockhart hit a slow roller to first. Brown, replacing the injured Mark Grace, picked up the ball and threw to second, hitting Blauser in the helmet. With two outs, Michael Tucker hit a two-run triple off Turk Wendell (0-1).

Giants 5, Mets 1

Giants 7, Mets 6

New York became the final team to play a home game, and the Mets were just as bad as they were on the road. The losses dropped them to 3-8.

Ex-Met Jeff Kent drove in three runs in the opener, then left with a sprained neck when he slid head-first into third base trying to stretch a double.

Mark Lewis homered twice in the second game and Jose Vizcaino - dealt by the Mets to Cleveland along with Kent last July - homered for the first time in 516 at-bats.

Dodgers 14, Pirates 5

Todd Hollandsworth homered and drove in four runs in Los Angeles' nine-run third inning at Pittsburgh.

Padres 3, Phillies 1

Ken Caminiti's RBI double in the top of the ninth inning snapped a 1-1 tie as San Diego continued its domination of Philadelphia.

Reds 6, Marlins 4

Pokey Reese hit a pivotal three-run homer - one day after he won a game with his first major league hit - and Cincinnati held on in the cold.

Expos 8, Rockies 3

Henry Rodriguez had the second four-hit game of his career and pitcher Carlos Perez homered as visiting Montreal snapped Colorado's seven-game winning streak while ending a five-game slide of its own.

Cardinals 6, Astros 2

Alan Benes allowed two hits in seven innings and St. Louis tied an NL record with four consecutive doubles.