ARLINGTON, Texas — Just when Rays rookie left-hander David Price believed he was making some progress, he took another step back.
Price, 23, coming off his best start of the season, had the worst one of his career Saturday night in a 12-4 loss to the Rangers.
Price walked five in 11/3 innings, giving up six earned runs in throwing 61 pitches to get four outs.
The problem again for Price was he struggled with his fastball command as he threw barely half of his pitches (33) for strikes, marking the fifth time in his eight starts this season he has given up at least five walks. In all, 2007's top overall pick has walked 30 batters in 38 innings this season.
"Embarrassed," Price said. "I can't even put words on that. We needed to stop the bleeding, and I let us down. I've got to be able to get back out there with that mind-set and that attitude that I know I belong; that I know I'm going to win every time out; that I'm going to help this team win a lot of games. I've got to get back to that mind-set."
With their third straight loss, the Rays (44-38) missed out on an opportunity for the second straight night to take advantage of a defeat by first-place Boston, so they're still five games back in the American League East.
With Price (2-3), the problem isn't physical or mechanical. It's one of focus. Price said he's thinking too much about "everything I should not be thinking about."
"I have to think about, 'Here it is. Hit it,' " Price said. "That's what got me to this level. (Overthinking) is not what I did in (Vanderbilt), not what I did in Vero, not what I did in Double A, not what I did in the World Series."
Price, who allowed one run in 61/3 innings against the Marlins on June 28, got into trouble from the get-go with two first-inning walks leading to a three-run homer by Andruw Jones.
Then in the second, more walks by Price turned into a bases-loaded situation and bases-clearing double by Michael Young.
"He just really struggled with his fastball command," manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought he threw some really good changeups. He just couldn't throw his fastball where he wanted to. That's going to be the key that unlocks his potential."
The Rays offense showed some signs of life but lost to a rookie starting pitcher for the third straight game. Jason Bartlett hit a solo homer, and Dioner Navarro had a double and three-run homer off lefty Derek Holland.
The Rays pulled to within 7-4, but the bullpen was tagged for six runs. Lance Cormier and Jeff Niemann were each charged with three as the Rays matched a season high by allowing 12 runs.
Said Maddon: "They did outhit us. They outplayed us. They outdefensed us. They outpitched us. They did everything."
With Price, Maddon said, "patience is a really important word with this fellow."
"Everybody expects him to be the finished artwork by now, and that's just unfair," Maddon said. "He's not ready for that — yet — but he's not far away from it either. That's the problem with being David Price. Expectations are so high.
"But I also believe he's definitely got the shoulders and mind-set to handle it, too."