Brad Wilkerson took advantage of the short dimensions in Montreal’s “home” stadium in Puerto Rico, homering twice to beat Texas 5-4 on Saturday night.
The Expos have scored 26 runs in the last three games, but on Saturday, it was the pitching that impressed. Starter Claudio Vargas and the bullpen held the Rangers scoreless for the final seven innings to help Montreal win its third straight game.
After week of heavy work for the Expos’ bullpen in which Montreal relievers have pitched 24 2-3 innings in five games this week, Anthony Ferrari pitched a scoreless inning in his major league debut. Rocky Biddle followed with two hitless innings and Luis Ayala finished for his first career save.
“The bullpen did a tremendous job,” manager Frank Robinson said. “Ferrari had a great effort, Biddle pitched two superb innings and Ayala closed the game in style.”
Bithorn Stadium can wear on pitchers quickly. There have been 60 homers in 15 games here, but the Expos kept the majors’ leading home run-hitting team in the park.
Texas has dropped a season-high eight straight games, and might be without All-Star Alex Rodriguez in the starting lineup for the second straight game.
Rodriguez suffered a bruised left knee on Thursday night, and while he didn’t start in Saturday’s defeat, he did pinch hit and grounded back to Ayala for the final out with a runner on first.
Hometown hero Juan Gonzalez went 1-for-5 and remained two RBIs behind Orlando Cepeda for the career record for Puerto Rican natives.
Gonzalez had his chances, but flied out to shallow right with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning and struck out with a man on to end the eighth.
“We had a lot of men on base but we weren’t able to drive in runs in those situations,” Gonzalez said. “When you don’t take advantage of that it’s hard to win.”
STANDINGS: Rangers - 4th place, 15 1/2 GB, AL West. Expos - 2nd place, 6 GB, NL East.
RANGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Ismael Valdes (5-2, 5.01 ERA). In his last start, the right-hander had his personal three-game winning streak snapped, allowing four runs and nine hits over seven innings of a 6-5 defeat at Atlanta. He didn’t figure in the decision however, and hasn’t lost a start since a 12-2 setback on April 19 at Oakland. Valdes has made 12 career starts against the Expos, going 4-5 with a 3.73 ERA.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: Tomo Ohka (4-6, 5.20 ERA). The right-hander is coming off a career-worst performance, allowing eight runs and 11 hits in two-plus innings of a 15-4 rout by the Angels on Tuesday night. Ohka has made two career starts, and is 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Rangers - Hank Blalock, .355 avg.; Gonzalez, 17 HRs and 46 RBIs; Carl Everett, 47 runs; Rodriguez, 7 SBs. Expos - Jose Vidro, .341 avg.; Vladimir Guerrero and Orlando Cabrera, 8 HRs and 33 RBIs; Cabrera, 39 runs; Endy Chavez, 11 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Rangers - 0-5; Expos - 3-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Rangers - Right-handed batters are hitting .320 against RHP Valdes this season. … SS Rodriguez’s pinch-hit appearance extended his streak of consecutive games played to 446. Oakland’s Miguel Tejada has the longest active streak of 491 games. … Texas agreed to terms with two of its draft picks—seventh-rounder RHP Matthew Farnum and 25th-rounder C Justin Hatcher. Expos - 2B Vidro is hitting 417 (5-for-12) in his career against RHP Valdes. … After allowing just 19 home runs in 31 starts last season, RHP Ohka has already given up 13 home runs in 12 starts so far this year. … SS Cabrera is 2-for-9 in his career against RHP Valdes.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 11-21 on the road; Expos - 22-11 at home.
INJURIES: Rangers - INF Herbert Perry (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Joaquin Benoit (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Rusty Greer (shoulder), 60-day DL. Expos - OF Guerrero (back), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Zach Day (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL.