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Gonzalez' RBIs Propel Rangers

Juan Gonzalez is back on pace to break Hack Wilson's major league-record for RBIs in a season.

The Texas slugger hit his 19th homer and had three RBIs to boost his major league-leading total to 76 as the Rangers beat the San Diego Padres 8-7 on Friday night in an interleague game.

"He has a way," Rangers manager Johnny Oates said. "RBIs find him. He can't hide from them."

Gonzalez homered off reliever Donnie Wall (2-2) in the sixth inning and also had an RBI double in the second and a sacrifice fly in the fourth off former Texas pitcher Kevin Brown.

"I'm figuring out ways to drive in runs," said Gonzalez, 1-for-18 with eight strikeouts during the final four games of a road trip before returning home Friday night. "I felt a lot more comfortable at the plate tonight. The last three or four games, I had bad mechanics. I'm just able to concentrate better in my home ballpark."

Gonzalez has 14 RBIs in his last seven games and 25 in his last 15 to step up his run-producing pace as he chases Wilson's major league mark of 190 RBIs for the Chicago Cubs in 1930.

"A lot of people think he's just a power hitter, but he's much more than that," said Rangers closer John Wetteland, who pitched the ninth for his 15th save. "He's amazing the way he is able to pick up RBIs. He's a power hitter, sure, but he also is able to keep the bat in the contact zone for so long and that helps him drive the ball in RBI situations."

Tim Crabtree (3-0) retired the final batter in the seventh to pick up the victory.

Wetteland didn't have an easy time in the ninth, but he left runners on second and third when he struck out Chris Gomez for the game's final out.

"I couldn't locate my fastball," Wetteland said. "I was up in the zone. I didn't know what side of the plate I was throwing it. But I had a good slider and it bailed me out."

Texas scored the winning run in the seventh. Domingo Cedeno led off with a single off Wall, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Fernando Tatis' single.

The Padres took advantage of Gonzalez's fielding error in right field to tie it at 7 in the top of the seventh. After Crabtree hit Ruben Rivera with a pitch, Carlos Hernandez followed with a single to right that Gonzalez failed to pick up cleanly, allowing Rivera to score. Texas outfielders had handled 415 chances without an error this season before Gonzalez's misplay.

Texas starter Darren Oliver pitched 6 2-3 innings, allowing six runs and nine hits. Oliver matched his career high with 10 strikeouts, but hit three batters to tie a team record and also walked one.

Kevin Brown, who pitched for the Rangers from 1988-94, gave up six runs and 11 hits over five innings. He struck out three and walked four.

"t was a bad night," Brown said. "I didn't have great stuff and my location was bad too. They have a great lineup and I have to make better pitches. It's a shame to waste an opportunity with such a big offensive day but I didn't keep them in check."

The Rangers opened the scoring in the first on Will Clark's RBI single, but the Padres countered in the second on Gomez's two-run single.

Texas took a 3-2 lead in the second, with Tatis scoring on Hernandez's passed ball, and Gonzalez following with an RBI double.

The Padres regained the lead in the third on Wally Joyner's RBI single and Steve Finley's run-scoring double.

Texas rallied with a three-run fourth to take a 6-4 lead.

Tom Goodwin led off with a single, went to third on Mark McLemore's single, and scored when third baseman Ken Caminiti threw wildly into right field in an attempt to get McLemore at second. McLemore moved to third on the play and scored on Gonzalez's sacrifice fly. Clark followed with a double and scored on Ivan Rodriguez's single.

San Diego came back again with a two-run sixth on Gomez's run-scoring double and Quilvio Veras' RBI single.

San Diego's Tony Gwynn was 3-for-5 with two doubles.

Notes: The Rangers placed shortstop Kevin Elster on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 2 because of a left shoulder injury. To replace Elster, the Rangers purchased the contract of shortstop Scott Sheldon from Triple-A Oklahoma City. ... The Rangers signed free agent infielder Rene Gonzales to a minor league contract and will assign him to Oklahoma City. Gonzales played for the Rangers in 1996.

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

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