To Ron Darling, something is a little unrealistic about the New York Mets' start.

"We're 20-4. That means we have to go 15-1 to do what the Tigers did," Darling said. "That's unreal."

En route to their major league record 35-5 start in 1984, the Tigers also were 20-4. New York equaled that part of Detroit's record getaway yesterday with a 5-1 victory over the visiting Cincinnati Reds. The victory was the Mets' seventh straight.

Darling (3-0) limited the Reds to one unearned run on three hits over eight innings, getting one hitless inning of relief from Jesse Orosco, who has pitched 15 1/3 innings this season without being scored upon.

George Foster had a solo home run to break a scoreless tie in the fourth, and Gary Carter's two-run homer started New York's three-run eighth.

As the Reds slumped further, player-manager Pete Rose, who went zero for three with a walk, said he wouldn't pinpoint the blame.

"There's 24 on this team, and somehow we're all responsible for being 6-19 and where we are," Rose said. "Tomorrow is our 26th game of the season, and we've played 13 of them against the two division leaders, Houston and New York."

Darling did not give up a hit until Buddy Bell led off the fifth inning with a single. Two innings later, Darling lost his shutout after Max Venable scored an unearned run.

*Expos 3, Dodgers 2: In Montreal, Herman Winningham singled home Al Newman from second base in the 11th inning as the Expos beat Los Angeles to win their seventh straight.

Newman led off the 11th with his third hit of the game, a single against Ken Howell (0-2). Mike Fitzgerald followed with a sacrifice and each was safe when Howell threw late to second trying to get Newman.

Winningham then grounded a 1-1 pitch to left field that scored Newman with the winning run.

"I was surprised he Howell tried to go to second because I got a decent jump," Newman said. "It was a mistake because it cost them the game."

Dan Schatzeder (2-0) pitched two innings, allowing one hit.

*Cubs 6, Padres 5: Pitcher Dennis Eckersley and catcher Jody Davis hit two-run homers and Keith Moreland also homered to lead the Cubs over San Diego in Chicago.

John Kruk and Graig Nettles hit two-run homers for the Padres. Eckersley (1-2) was the winner and LaMarr Hoyt (0-1) took the loss.

Bip Roberts opened the game with a single and Kruk followed with his first major league homer.

*Braves 3, Phillies 1: Claudell Washington and Terry Harper both hit solo home runs, leading the Braves over Philadelphia in Atlanta.

Left-hander Zane Smith (3-2) allowed five hits in seven innings and struck out eight to regain the NL lead in strikeouts over Houston's Mike Scott. Smith walked two before leaving the game when a muscle tightened in his left side.

Washington's fourth home run, a drive over the right field fence leading off the third, came off starter Charles Hudson (2-2).

*Astros 6, Pirates 3: Glenn Davis hit two homers and a double and Bob Knepper became the NL's first six-game winner as Houston won in Pittsburgh.

Davis' first home run was into the left field stands with two outs in the sixth inning against starter Rick Rhoden (2-2).

*Cardinals 6, Giants 3: Ray Burris drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double and held the Giants to six hits over seven innings as St. Louis, playing at home, beat San Francisco.

Burris, 35, a right-hander released April 1 by Milwaukee, had his contract purchased Friday after the Cardinals optioned left-hander Pat Perry to AAA Louisville.