Expos 5, Rangers 4

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)—Brad Wilkerson didn’t figure five runs would be nearly enough to beat the powerful Texas Rangers—especially in cozy Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

Wilkerson took advantage of the short dimensions to homer twice and Montreal’s beleaguered bullpen pitched four scoreless innings as the Expos dealt the Rangers their eighth straight loss, 5-4 Saturday night.

Starter Claudio Vargas and the bullpen held the Rangers scoreless for the final seven innings to help Montreal win its third straight game.

“In this ballpark, I thought that a 5-4 lead would not last,” Wilkerson said. “But Vargas did a great job, especially after the second inning. The bullpen did a tremendous job. You have to give credit to them, especially against a superb offensive team like Texas.”

Jose Vidro also homered for Montreal, a legitimate shot off the advertisements beyond the right-field bleachers.

But the story of this game was pitching. Vargas (3-2) pitched in and out of trouble all game, but was touched for four unearned runs in the second and nothing else in five innings.

“I made my contribution with the home run but the most important thing is that our pitching did a terrific job,” Vidro said.

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.

Expos relievers have pitched 24 2-3 innings in five games this week.

“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.”

This stadium can wear on pitchers quickly. There have been 60 homers in 15 games here, but Vargas and the Expos kept the majors’ leading homer hitting team in the park.

The game lacked some of the star attraction with Alex Rodriguez out of Texas’ starting lineup with a bruised left knee and Vladimir Guerrero on Montreal’s disabled list with a bad back.

A-Rod pinch-hit and grounded back to Ayala for the final out with a runner on first. Texas stranded 13 runners.

Many fans in the sellout crowd of 18,003 came to see local hero Juan Gonzalez, who 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.”

Wilkerson broke a tie with his second solo homer of the game, in the fifth inning against Brian Shouse (0-1). Like the first, the opposite-field shot barely cleared the fence in left-center.

Chan Ho Park, making his first start since April 27, only lasted two innings because his bad back acted up again. He gave up four runs—three earned— three hits and four walks and might be headed back to the DL.

“It bothered me,” he said. “It bothered me the last two games but I wanted to make it back into the game here. This is making me mad.”

With two outs and none on in the first, Vidro and Wilkerson hit Montreal’s first back-to-back homers of the season.

Then came an ugly second inning that featured six runs, three walks and three errors—including one on a botched appeal play.

The Rangers scored four unearned runs in the top half. Todd Greene hit a one-out single and Donnie Sadler reached on first baseman Wil Cordero’s error.

With Park up to bunt, Vargas walked him on five pitches to load the bases. One out later, Michael Young hit a two-run single to tie the game. Before throwing another pitch, Vargas threw to third on an appeal.

The throw went over Fernando Tatis’ head and into the vast foul territory, allowing Park to score and Young to go to second. Hank Blalock’s RBI double made it 4-2.

The Rangers were almost as giving in the bottom half. With runners on first and second and no outs, Park threw Vargas’ bunt wildly into right field, scoring Tatis. Endy Chavez’s sacrifice fly tied it at 4.

Vargas stranded nine runners, including the bases loaded in the fourth when he got Gonzalez to flyout to right and Rafael Palmeiro on a popup.

“We had a lot of chances with the right people up there but couldn’t get itdone,” Rangers manager Buck Showalter said.


Texas pitcher R.A. Dickey singled in his first career at-bat in the fourth inning. … Cordero left in the third inning after being hit on theright wrist by Dickey’s pitch.

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