Houston pitcher J. R. Richard had reason to be pleased after pushing his season strikeout total - already a National League record for right-handers - to 303.

"I'm pretty well satisfied. I'm not totally content," Richard, 18-11, said after whiffing six in five innings as the Astros completed a three-game sweep with a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

The victory clinched at least a tie for fifth place for the Astros, who took a three-game lead over the last-place Braves in the National League West with three games to play.

Braves Manager Bobby Cox said, "It's disappointing to be in that position. But when you look at our club this same time last year and look at it again this year, you have to be enthused about the future."

Richards, a tall fast-baller, socked his first homer of the season in the third inning, breaking up a scoreless battle with Atlanta rookie Larry McWilliams (9-3).

In the same inning, Terry Puhl walked and raced to third on Jeff Leonard's single, before Bob Watson's ground ball started a merry-go-round of Atlanta errors.

Third baseman Rod Gilbreath fielded the bouncer but his throw to second pulled Glenn Hubbard off the bag, allowing Leonard to siide in safely and Puhl to cross the plate. Hubbard's relay flew past first base for the second error on the play, but Leonard, trying to score all the way from first, was tagged out at the plate.

Atlanta broke a 32-inning drought against Houston pitching when Eddie Miller was hit by a pitch, stole second and continued to third when catcher Bruce Bochte's throw went into center field. Miller scored on an infield out by Bob Beall.

Pinch-hitter Reggie Baldwin doubled in Jose Cruz for another Astro run in the seventh, then scored himself on Raphael Landestoy's double.

Rowland Office singled home two runs in the eighth and chased Astro reliever Rick Williams. Ken Forsch finished the game and recorded his seventh save.

In the down-to-the-wire AL East race. Ron Guidry threw a four-hitter at the Toronto Blue Jays, hoosting his record to 24-3, as the New York Yankees stayed one game ahead of the Boston Red Sox, who topped the Detroit Tigers, 1-0, on Jim Rice's 45th homer and Mike Torrez' three-hit pitching.It was the first victory for Torrez since Aug. 18.

Elsewhere Thursday night: Reds 8, Dodgers 7

Peter Rose started and ended a wild six-run ninth-inning rally with singles, knocking in the winning run with two out and leading Cincinnati over Los Angeles. Los Angeles took a 7-2 lead into the ninth, but reliver Lance Rautzhan (2-1) was battered for five hits and six runs. AMERICAN LEAGUE Orioles 3, Indians 2

Dough DeCinces slammed his 27th homer and Jim Palmer and Don Stanhouse comibed for a four-hitter to lead Baltimore to a three-game sweep of Cleveland. Palmer (21-12) gave up all four Cleveland hits and lost his shutout when Jim Norris stroked an RBI single in the ninth. Angles 11, White Sox 7

Carney Lansford drove in four runs with his eighth homer and a single and the Angels spotted Chicago a 4-0 lead in the first inning before rallying for a triumph over the White Sox, off-setting a pair of two-run homers by Eric Soderholm. Rangers 4, Mariners 3

Toby Harrah drove in a pair of runs with a seventh-inning single, Jim Sundberg drove in the go-ahead run with an eighth-inning forceout and Texas reliever Jim Umbarger yielded one hit over the final three innings to lead the Rangers to victory.