ANAHEIM, Calif. — Maybe that chip on David Price's shoulder was the reason he was off target Thursday night.
Determined to make amends for a loss in his previous outing, Price instead made a mess of this one, allowing 11 hits in the first three innings of a 6-2 loss to the Angels.
"I've got to make better pitches,'' Price said. "I got better as the game went on, but 11 hits and a walk through three innings — that's pretty rough.''
He did not get much help from his teammates, as they scored only the two runs in six-plus innings against starter Jerome Williams, who came into the game winless since June 12 with an 0-8 record and 6.15 ERA in the interim.
"We just haven't been very offensive lately,'' manager Joe Maddon said.
Before the gane, Maddon insisted they were still aiming to win the American League East and that "it's definitely still within our abilities." Technically, and mathematically, he's right, but realistically it doesn't look good.
With their loss and the Red Sox rallying after blowing a big lead at New York, the Rays (77-62) are 6½ games back with 23 to play. They only have three games left head to head, next week at the Trop.
Of increasingly greater concern is the wild-card race, as the Rays headed to Seattle for the weekend 2½ behind the wild-card-leading A's and 2½ ahead of the Yankees, and three ahead of the Orioles and Indians, for the second entry to the postseason.
Overall, Maddon said the players are pressing, that thet are too uptight and need to relax.
"I think definitely we're trying way too hard and I'm trying to do everything I possibly can for them to not do that,'' he said. "They care. They care so much. They want this so badly.
"But sometimes you have to just permit it to happen — not try to over-think it, not try to over-do it. Just go ahead and play the game. I'm really just trying to get them to relax and just go play and let it just happen,''
Third baseman Evan Longoria didn't necessarily agree with Maddon's premise, but came to a similar conclusion.
"It's tough to get what's trying too hard,'' Longoria said. "What is trying too hard and what is trying hard enough? I don't really know what the answer is. I'd rather be trying hard than not trying at all.
"The games that we lost were disappointing. I think mentally we just need to kind of clear our heads and just kind of start living for the moment, soak it all in. It goes back to the fact that you don't want to look back at the end of the year and be saying I could have done this or that. I think we'll be all right.''
Price's biggest regret was the changeup he left up to No. 9 hitter Colin Cowgill with the bases loaded in the second, especially as it soared into the left-center gap and gave the Angels a 3-0 lead. (In his 22 starts, Price has allowed No. 9 hitters a .281 average, including five extra-base hits.) "That hurt,'' Price said. "It was the right pitch, I just didn't execute it.''
The double was preceded by one of those odd plays that just aren't going the Rays' way.
The Angels had two on and one out when Grant Green bounced a ball toward third. Longoria got caught in between hops, and Josh Hamilton beat him to third to load the bases. "A weird play,'' Longoria said, admitting he was a bit cautious after making an error on a similar play last weekend in Oakland and because he was confident Price would get out of the jam.
Maddon pointed out that had it been hit harder it was probably an inning-ending double play; instead "it's one of those impossible moments where if you're going well you probably get the out and when you're not you don't.''
After the Rays got two runs back on a two-out double by James Loney, Price started the third inning even worse, allowing five consecutive hits: a Mike Trout single (though he was caught stealing), a Mark Trumbo double, a Josh Hamilton RBI single, a Luis Jimenez double and a Kole Calhoun RBI single. The Angels got another run when the Rays couldn't turn a double play on Green's grounder to short.
"It went by fast,'' Price said. "I don't remember much from that inning.''
The only good that came from Price's outing was that he righted himself, retiring 13 of his last 14 hitters, and worked seven innings, preventing further taxing of the bullpen in a 110-pitch outing. It was the second-most hits he has allowed in a game, having given up 12 to the Angels in a 2011 start.
Price was most frustrated after the Aug. 30 game about the three-run homer he allowed to No. 9 hitter Kurt Suzuki in a 4-3 loss at Oakland, saying his entire work week was centered on going out and dominating the Angels. Instead, he was saddled with a second frustrating loss on the road trip.
"You've got to be able to make pitches,'' Price said. "I didn't do that tonight.''