ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — David Price’s stretch of dominant starting pitching found a dead end against perhaps the game’s hottest hitter.
Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre was 3 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs, including driving in the go-ahead run, to lead the Texas Rangers to a 6-5 victory against Tampa Bay on Monday night.
Elvis Andrus scored on Beltre’s single in the fifth inning to give the AL West leaders a series-opening win.
Nelson Cruz had a home run, and Mike Olt also had an RBI in support of Derek Holland (9-6), who earned the victory after going six innings and giving up five runs – three earned – on six hits, five strikeouts and a walk.
Price’s stretch of 12 consecutive quality starts, during which he had pitched at least seven innings in each, was snapped with more troubles against Texas.
The lefty, who entered with a major-league low 2.28 ERA and a league co-high of 16 victories, didn’t make it to the fifth, giving up six runs on 10 hits in four innings.
In eight career regular-season starts against the Rangers, Price (16-5) is 1-4 with a 6.04 ERA. In four starts at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, his ERA is inflated to 10.26.
“I didn’t feel like I was throwing the ball any different than I was during the stretch where I’ve been successful,” Price said. “It’s Texas, they’re a good-hitting team, and they’re feeling it right now.”
Neither Beltre nor his teammates are an easy out right now.
Beltre, who was selected American League player of the week after a game of three home runs and another in which he hit for the cycle, is hitting .485 with six home runs and 13 RBIs in his last eight games.
“He’s locked in,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We need everything he’s giving us right now. He’s one of the guys in our lineup that makes it work.”
Relievers Alexi Ogando and Mike Adams and closer Joe Nathan struck out six of the nine hitters they faced in working perfect seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
Nathan converted his 23rd consecutive save opportunity and 26th this season.
The Rangers continually jumped on Price’s first-pitch fastballs over the plate.
“He was pitch-efficient,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Price.” ”They were swinging early, so he was not throwing a lot of pitches.
“He might have caught too much of the middle of the plate. There are strikes a pitcher wants to throw and pitches a hitter wants to hit.”
The Rays entered with the AL’s best road record (35-27) and took an early lead.
An error led to two unearned runs for the Rays in the first inning.
B.J. Upton reached base on a fielding miscue by Andrus at short, who then dropped a potential double play relay on the next hitter, Ben Zobrist, who reached by a fielder’s choice.
Evan Longoria, who was 2 for 4, then took a 3-2 pitch deep off the left-field foul pole for a home run.
“We screwed up the first inning,” Washington said, “but the offenses wouldn’t stop.”
Beltre, who reached base a fourth time with a walk in the seventh, and Cruz had back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the second to erase the Rangers’ deficit.
Olt’s groundout to shortstop Ben Zobrist drove in the Rangers’ third run.
Beltre’s double with no outs in the third scored Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton to make the score 5-3. Price was able to limit the damage by retiring the next three hitters on two groundouts and a strikout of Geovany Soto.
Over his last 65 games, Beltre is hitting .332 with 15 homers, 14 doubles and 44 RBIs.
“I don’t know,” Beltre said when asked if he’s ever had a streak like the past eight games. “Probably. I don’t keep track. Right now, I feel good.
“I feel comfortable, and have confidence offensively.”
Upton’s run-scoring triple and Zobrist’s RBI single tied the score at 5-all in the fifth.
The Rays’ Nos. 5-9 hitters went 0 for 18 with eight strikeouts.
“David will be fine,” Maddon said. “He’s been pitching very well. This is just a hiccup for him.”
Notes: With the home run and a single, Evan Longoria is hitting .435 (10 for 23) lifetime against Rangers starter Derek Holland. . Adrian Beltre has 25 or more home runs in seven seasons. … Price led the major leagues in ERA and tied for most wins entering Monday’s game. In the last 50 years, only eight pitchers — Sandy Koufax (1963, ’65-66), Jim Palmer (1975), Ron Guidry (1978), Dwight Gooden (1985), Bret Saberhagen (1989), Greg Maddux (1995), Pedro Martinez (1999) and Johan Santana (2006) — have finished the season leading the majors in both categories and all have won the Cy Young.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.