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Burkett Leads Rangers Over Padres

John Burkett was right at home against the San Diego Padres.

Burkett, who pitched in the NL for San Francisco and Florida from 1990-96, threw eight shutout innings to match his longest outing of the season as the Texas Rangers beat the Padres 3-0 on Saturday night.

"We know the type of pitcher he is," Rangers manager Johnny Oates said. "Give him 30-something starts and he's going to give you a chance to win a lot of games."

Burkett (4-5) allowed five hits, struck out four and walked one to win for the first time since May 10. The right-hander worked out of a bases-loaded two-out jam in the seventh, striking out Quilvio Veras with a fastball to end the Padres' best scoring chance of the game.

Burkett began the season as the ace of the Rangers staff, but his ERA soared to 7.75 in the first month.

"The last three or four starts have been a lot better, but there's still a long way to go," said Burkett, who retired 11 in a row from the first through the fifth. "My control's improved a lot lately. My slider is 10 times better.

"Early on, I didn't give up. You've got to believe you're going to turn it around. I think I still have it. Hopefully I can keep going from here."

John Wetteland pitched the ninth for his 16th save as the Rangers won for the fourth time in five games.

The Padres lost for the fourth time in five games despite a strong outing from Sterling Hitchcock (3-1). The left-hander allowed nine hits in 7 2-3 innings. He struck out eight and walked one in his first loss since Sept. 27.

"He's been pitching well and he gave us a good effort tonight," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "We had a lot of opportunities. That's the way it has gone of late. We score runs and struggle with pitching, then we pitch well and have trouble scoring runs."

Texas took a 2-0 lead in the fifth. Mike Simms and Domingo Cedeno opened with singles, and advanced on Fernando Tatis' sacrifice bunt. After Roberto Kelly popped out, Luis Alicea had a two-run double just inside the third-base bag.

Cedeno added his first homer of the season, a solo shot in the seventh, to make it 3-0. Cedeno hadn't homered since Sept. 14.

Notes: The Rangers activated Kelly from the 15-day disabled list and optioned right-hander Al Levine to Triple-A Oklahoma. Kelly, who injured his left hamstring April 26, started in center field. ... Rangers slugger Juan Gonzalez failed to drive in a run, but is well ahead of Hack Wilson's record RBI pace of 1930. Wilson had 66 RBIs in his first 60 games en route to 190 for the Chicago Cubs. Gonzalez has 76 in his first 60 games. ... Rangers second baseman Mark McLemore left the game after the third inning after injuring his left hamstring running out a double-play ball. Alicea took MLemore's position in the field. ... The Padres are 8-10 in interleague play the last two years. The Rangers are 12-6.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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