OAKLAND, JULY 14 -- He didn't play a single spring training game, his name wasn't on the all-star ballot, and he certainly wasn't expected to turn a rough winter into such a smooth season.

But when Tim Raines returned to the Montreal Expos' lineup on May 6, he needed about 15 minutes to go from outcast to all-star.

Tonight, he demonstrated again that he's all the way back, producing three hits, including a game-winning triple in the 13th inning, to lead the National League to a 2-0 victory.

"As far as thrills, I think this ranks right up there," he said tonight, holding the MVP Trophy. "I won't say it's the tops, but winning the award is definitely one of the highlights of my career."

Raines ended up missing a month of the regular season after filing for free agency last winter and not getting a legitimate offer, despite leading the NL with a .334 batting average in 1986.

He re-signed with the Expos on May 1 -- the first day he was eligible to return to his former team -- and he looked as if he hadn't missed a day. Of the five free agents who rejoined their former teams in early May, he was the only serious contender for the All-Star Game.

In 63 games, he hit .309 with seven home runs, 37 RBI and 25 stolen bases.

"I didn't feel I had anything to prove when I came back," he said tonight. "I felt I'd already proved myself on the field, no matter what I did. I think people recognized that."

He went three for three tonight, and NL Manager Davey Johnson said, "He's a fine player. If I'd had him in the game sooner, it might have been over sooner."

Raines nearly had given the NL an victory in the ninth. He singled with one out, stole second and went to third on Mark McGwire's throwing error.

But with one out, Juan Samuel hit a fly to shallow right. Raines didn't challenge Dwight Evans arm.

"I thought about it," he said, "but it was just not hit deep enough. There was only one out, so it wasn't worth the game. I know Dwight has a great arm."

But in the 13, with two runners on base, Oakland right-hander Jay Howell fell behind 2-0 and threw him a fastball down the middle.

"I was looking fastball because he was behind in the count," Raines said.

Asked what he'd been thinking, he said, "When I went to the on-deck circle, I knew I'd get a chance to hit. I know Willie McGee {the preceding hitter} wouldn't hit into a double play. The only thing I was thinking was of trying to make good contract. I wanted to hit something hard."