Wilkerson’s second run-scoring double broke a tie in the eighth inning and helped the Expos send the Texas Rangers to their ninth straight loss, 3-2 Sunday.
The Expos started their 22-game trip away from Montreal with eight losses in nine games, including two blowouts against Anaheim in San Juan. They finished their second Puerto Rican homestand with four straight wins—all after losing All-Star Vladimir Guerrero with a herniated disc in his back.
“It’s good to turn it around after such a disastrous start to the road trip,” manager Frank Robinson said. “We still have a lot of work to do. But we’ll enjoy the off-day.”
Wilkerson played a key role in the turnaround, homering twice in a 5-4 win Saturday and coming up with two big hits in the series finale.
“It shows a lot about this team, the character of this team,” Wilkerson said. “We got off to a bad start and it could have gotten worse. But we were able to come up with good pitching and clutch hits.”
The powerful Rangers were held to two runs over their final 16 innings at cozy Hiram Bithorn Stadium and are on their longest skid since also dropping nine straight in June 2000. Texas finished its road trip 2-10.
“We have an off-day to regroup and to think about what is ahead of us,” Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. “It was a long trip that was not good for us. I’m very disappointed.”
Michael Barrett broke an 0-for-19 stretch with a solo homer in the fifth for the Expos, who gave Robinson his 800th career win as a manager. Rocky Biddle gave his skipper the game ball after earning his 16th save.
The Expos went 10-6 in their first two trips to San Juan, with the final six games coming in September. They averaged 14,216 fans, up from 11,338 at Olympic Stadium.
Despite the low-scoring finale, there have been 63 homers in the 16 games in San Juan and an average of 11.6 runs per game compared to 7.9 in Montreal’s other games.
Trailing 2-0, the Expos came back to win the game with single runs in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings.
“This was a good win for this ballclub,” Robinson said. “It was our type of game, low scoring. This is the type of game we’re used to.”
Alex Rodriguez was out of Texas’ starting lineup for the second straight game with a bruised left knee, but struck out as a pinch hitter, ending the game. He extended his consecutive games streak to 447.
Francisco Cordero (2-6) came in with one out and no one on in the eighth and walked Orlando Cabrera, who stole second with two outs. Wilkerson followed with a ground-rule double to give the Expos a 3-2 lead.
“Any time you hold that team over there to two runs in any ballpark you’ve done a good job,” Robinson said. “To do it the way the ball travels here is even better.”
The Rangers went ahead in the fourth with consecutive longballs that probably wouldn’t have been out of any other major league stadium.
Gonzalez, playing in front of his home fans, got a standing ovation, and the sellout crowd of 18,001 chanted his nickname, “Igor! Igor!” until he took a curtain call and blew kisses to the fans.
Gonzalez moved within one RBI of Orlando Cepeda’s career record for Puerto Rican natives. But he couldn’t break the mark here as he struck out in his final two at-bats.
“It was a dream to play in front of the home crowd here in Puerto Rico,” Gonzalez said. “Even when you try your best, sometimes you fall short.”
The Rangers had a chance to go back ahead when they put the first two runners on in the seventh. But Einar Diaz popped up a bunt and Ohka doubled Hank Blalock off second. Donnie Sadler then bunted for a hit, pinch-hitter Rafael Palmeiro singled to load the bases.
Manon came on and got Doug Glanville to hit into an inning-ending forceout.
Ismael Valdes gave up two runs and six hits in six innings. … Glanville led off the game with a single, snapping a 15 at-bat hitless streak. … Expos 3B Jamey Carroll made a tremendous diving catch on Mark Teixeira’s foul ball to end the fourth inning. But in the seventh, Carroll bunted into aforceout and then was doubled off first on a fly to right.