Ron Villone extended one of the NL's most amazing turnarounds yesterday at Cinergy Field, throwing 100 pitches in wilting heat as the Cincinnati Reds pulled away to a 5-2 victory. Villone (4-2) has won his last three starts and even had a base hit as the Reds moved back into sole possession of first place in the NL Central.
"I can't explain it," Astros interim manager Matt Galante said. "We've seen him a number of times, and that's not the same Villone."
Villone had a streak of 21 scoreless innings -- second-longest in the majors this season -- snapped by Matt Mieske's two-run homer in the seventh. He gave up six hits and two walks in seven inning.
"I didn't feel great," said Villone, who got a liter of fluids intravenously before the game to prepare for the heat. "I didn't have my best stuff. . . . Things went our way."
A thermometer placed in the sun on the artificial turf a few minutes before the first pitch registered 154 degrees. Some players wrapped their necks with towels soaked in ammonia and cold water, while others turned to an old-fashioned remedy of wearing cabbage leaves soaked in the ammonia under their caps.
CARDINALS 1, DIAMONDBACKS 0: At least visiting Arizona got two hits in the rematch of Jose Jimenez vs. Randy Johnson. Jimenez followed up his June 25 no-hitter against the Diamondbacks with a two-hitter.
Jimenez (5-8) retired the first 13 batters before Steve Finley doubled with one out in the fifth. That was Arizona's first hit in 13 2/3 innings off Jimenez. The Diamondbacks' only other hit was a single off Jimenez's glove by Andy Fox to lead off the sixth.
The rookie right-hander struck out a career-high nine and walked one.
BREWERS 5, PHILLIES 0: In Philadelphia, Jim Abbott battled sweltering heat with guile and stamina, and Jeff Cirillo, Dave Nilsson and Jeromy Burnitz homered to lead Milwaukee to its fifth straight win.
Abbott (2-7) allowed three hits in six innings in his best start of the season to win for the first time since May 30. The left-hander walked three and struck out three.
"I know my record's not great this year, but I've enjoyed it," Abbott said. "I'm seeing new cities, new teams and new ballplayers."
ROCKIES 8, DODGERS 4: Darryl Kile outpitched Kevin Brown, and Colorado got four RBI from Dante Bichette to defeat visiting Los Angeles.
Kile (5-6), winless in his previous six starts, threw seven strong innings, allowing nine hits, a walk and striking out four. The Rockies chased Brown (9-6) with a five-run rally in the seventh.
CUBS 5, PIRATES 2: In Pittsburgh, Henry Rodriguez homered and drove in three runs and Chicago benefited from some terrible Pittsburgh infield play on a brutally hot day to beat the Pirates.
In his first start against his old team, Jon Lieber (7-3) allowed two runs and struck out 10 in 5 1/3 innings.
METS 2, EXPOS 1: On the hottest day of the season, Brian McRae pushed home the go-ahead run with a double-play grounder in the eighth inning for host New York. The Mets have won 20 of their last 28, including 10 of 13 at home. Montreal has lost four straight.
Armando Benitez struck out two in the ninth for his fifth save.
GIANTS 4, PADRES 1: Russ Ortiz threw a six-hitter for his second complete game and also hit two RBI singles as San Francisco won on the road for its seventh win in eight games.
Ortiz (10-5), who leads the Giants' staff in victories in just his second big league season, struck out a career-high 10 and walked two.
BRAVES 6, MARLINS 5: Gerald Williams's bases-loaded single in the ninth inning gave host Atlanta its 14th victory in its last at-bat.
CAPTION: Jason LaRue greets Mike Cameron after two-run homer in sixth. The Reds, 8-3 against Houston this season, lead Astros by one game in NL Central.