CHICAGO (AP) -- Montreal manager Frank Robinson isn't surprised
at all with the dominating pitching he's seen from his team the
past two days.
Tony Armas Jr. struck out a career-high 11 batters in seven
scoreless innings as the Expos beat the Chicago Cubs 7-1 Thursday
to avoid a three-game sweep. Armas followed up Javier Vazquez's 14-strikeout performance in a
3-0 loss Wednesday. Montreal had 29 strikeouts in all the past two
games, a franchise record. "It's good to see it but that's what I expected," Robinson
said. "I expected our pitching staff to be much improved over last
season. Hopefully, we can continue it." Armas (2-1) gave up a leadoff single to Mark Grudzielanek,
walked Sammy Sosa two batters later and then retired the next 11.
He gave up just two more hits and didn't allow another runner past
first base. "I've worked more this year mechanic-wise with our pitching
coach and I think that's really helping me a lot," Armas said. "I
feel like I can throw more strikes than I used to." Robinson said one of the keys for Armas is he makes quality
pitches when he gets behind in the count, which he attributed to
the pitcher maturing. "You can just see it out there. He's really matured from the
first half of last year as a pitcher and as a person," Robinson
said of the 24-year-old. "They go hand-in-hand." Cubs manager Dusty Baker was impressed by Armas and the
26-year-old Vazquez. "Those guys are strikeout pitchers and they're getting better.
They're both young," Baker said.
Vladimir Guerrero homered and drove in three runs for the Expos. Shawn Estes (0-1) had his second straight rough outing for the
Cubs. The Expos scored four runs in the first on just three hits.
The Cubs provided most of the help with three errors, including two
by Estes. Estes bounced a throw to first on Orlando Cabrera's grounder
that got by Hee Seop Choi, allowing Wil Cordero to score from first
and Cabrera to advance to third. Fernando Tatis then dribbled one back to the mound and Cabrera
broke for home, scoring when Estes' wild throw got by catcher
Damian Miller. "I've been around too long to make plays like that," Estes
said. "It's pretty much the game when you've got a guy throwing
the way Armas was." Robinson said any team has to be ready to capitalize on such
gifts. "That's what you have to do. When other clubs give you a few
extra openings, you have to take advantage of it," he said. "And
that's what we did today." The Expos got one run in the second on three consecutive singles
by Jose Macias, Jose Vidro and Guerrero. Estes settled down after that, giving up just two more hits and
no runs, before being removed after the sixth. He allowed five runs
-- two earned -- and eight hits. Guerrero added a two-run homer in the seventh. Miller dropped a foul popup in the seventh inning to give the
Cubs four miscues on the day. Chicago scored its only run in the ninth when Mark Grudzielanek
doubled, went to third on Rocky Biddle's wild pitch and scored on a
sacrifice fly by Ramon Martinez.Game notes
Armas has won six of his last seven decisions dating back
to last year. ... His previous strikeout-high was 10, which he got
on Aug. 19, 2001, at San Diego. ... Grudzielanek extended his
hitting streak to eight games. ... Cubs SS Alex Gonzalez struck out
in six consecutive at-bats over Wednesday and Thursday. He had been
hitting over .500 going into Wednesday's game.