Francisco Cordova, the son of a former Mexican League pitching star, and Ricardo Rincon combined on a 10-inning no-hitter before Mark Smith won it with a dramatic three-run homer as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Houston Astros, 3-0, tonight before a sellout crowd at Three Rivers Stadium.

The joint effort is believed to have tied the mark for longest no-hitter in major league history; previously, there were three other 10-inning no-hitters in the National League and one in the old American Association in 1884. It was the first combined no-hitter in the majors in six years and the eighth on record.

Cordova worked nine innings of what likely was the second-best-pitched game in the Pirates' 110-year history, bettered only by Harvey Haddix's 12-inning perfect game he lost in the 13th on Joe Adcock's homer for Milwaukee on May 26, 1959.

"We don't know anything about" Haddix, said Cordova, who, like Rincon, speaks virtually no English and was interviewed through interpreter Esteban Loaiza, the Pirates' other Mexican-born starter. "We're happy what we've done, but it was more important for us to win. Winning was even greater than throwing a no-hitter."

But the Pirates could do no better than remain tied until Smith, an unnoticed spring training pickup, hit a three-run homer off reliever John Hudek. The home run by the former Baltimore Oriole provided Pittsburgh's first runs after being shut out for the first 27 2/3 innings of the series. Houston won the first two games by a combined 17-0.

"It's funny, but I got all fired up sitting on the bench in the ninth inning, thinking how great it would be to win the game with a homer," said Smith, acquired from San Diego in a four-player trade in March. "I can't describe the feeling. It's the greatest feeling you could ever have."

Cordova and Rincon, close friends and former Mexican League teammates, couldn't have picked a better night to pitch only the third no-hitter in Pittsburgh by a Pirate. The 44,119 fans here, lured by a Jackie Robinson tribute and fireworks show, constituted the Pirates' first non-Opening Day sellout in more than two decades, since June 5, 1977.

Cordova was lifted after throwing 121 pitches. He and Rincon combined for three walks and one hit batsman.

It was the second no-hitter in the majors this season -- Florida's Kevin Brown no-hit San Francisco last month -- and was the first combined no-hitter since Atlanta's Kent Mercker, Mark Wohlers and Alejandro Pena did it against San Diego on Sept. 11, 1991.

The other Pirates' no-hitters in Pittsburgh were by John Candelaria against Los Angeles on Aug. 8, 1976, and Nicholas Maddox against Brooklyn on Sept. 20, 1907. The Astros had not been no-hit since Jim Maloney of Cincinnati beat them, 10-0, on April 30, 1969. CAPTION: LONGEST NO-HIT GAMES IN MAJOR LEAGUE HISTORY Innings: 10 Date:

July 12, 1997 Pitcher: Francisco Cordova (9)

Ricardo Rincon (1) Team:

Pittsburgh Opponent: vs. Houston Score:

3-0 Innings: 10 Date:

Aug. 19, 1965 Pitcher: Jim Maloney Team:

Cincinnati Opponent: at Chicago Score:

1-0 Innings: 10 Date:

May 2, 1917 Pitcher: Fred Toney Team:

Cincinnati Opponent: at Chicago Score:

1-0 Innings: 10 Date:

July 4, 1908 Pitcher: Hooks Wiltse Team:

New York Opponent: vs. Philadelphia Score:

1-0 Innings: 10 Date:

Oct. 4, 1884 Pitcher: Sam Kimber Team:

Brooklyn* Opponent: vs. Toledo Score:

0-0 * American Association. CAPTION: Francisco Cordova, right, high-fives teammate Jon Lieber's cap after Cordova pitched nine innings of no-hit ball.