ARLINGTON, Texas — David Price pitched like an old man on Monday.
Or at least an older man.
Price celebrated his 27th birthday on Sunday, and his initial new age experience was not a good one as he got rocked for six runs on 10 hits and was knocked out of the game three batters into the fifth inning of a 6-5 defeat by Texas.
"One of those days," Price said.
"Not his best night," manager Joe Maddon said. "They beat him up a little bit."
By the end of the hot, steamy night, the Rays lost a lot.
Price, who came in leading the majors in ERA and sharing the lead in wins, took a loss for the first time in more than two months and saw his streaks of consecutive wins end at eight, of quality starts (and seven-inning starts) end at 12 and of scoreless innings end at 18.
"I had a lot of hard-hit balls the last two months and they seemed to go right at guys; tonight that wasn't the case," Price said. "I felt every ball they put in play was going to get down or find a hole. And they hit a lot of balls hard. They beat me."
The Rays (70-58) dropped from the top of the American League wild-card race, falling behind both the Orioles and A's, and failed to gain ground on the AL East-leading Yankees, who lost to Toronto. Plus, they lost three straight for the first time since late June.
And they lost their ninth one-run game of their past 10, and 18th of 24. "We're just losing way too many of these close games," Maddon said. "We've got to find a way to come out on the other side."
The Rays got off to a good start, with Evan Longoria hitting a two-run homer and Price (16-5, 2.53) setting down the Rangers on five pitches in the bottom half of the first.
But it went bad quickly from there, as Price gave up back-to-back home runs to Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz to start the second, and four consecutive hits total, as the Rangers took a 3-2 lead. The Rays tied it in the top of the third, on a Desmond Jennings triple and B.J. Upton sac fly, then Price gave it up again, allowing singles to Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton then a two-run double to Beltre.
And when the Rays tied it yet again in the fifth, on a single by Jennings, a triple by Upton and a single by Ben Zobrist, Price — you guessed it — faltered again, allowing singles to Andrus, Hamilton and Beltre to make it 6-5.
"They started hitting balls over the fence and driving the ball into the gaps,'' Price said. "That's what changed.''
And what seemed to hurt the most was letting his teammates down.
"They gave me five runs in the first (five) innings, that's got to be enough," Price said. "And I wasn't able to get the job done."
Price admitted he wasn't expecting to be pulled when he was, having thrown only 69 pitches (and 53 strikes), but acknowledged, "the way I was throwing the ball and the way they taking swings off me that was probably a pretty good call.''
Maddon said he decided he'd seen enough: "They were on him."
It was Price's shortest start innings-wise since April 13, when he lasted only three at Boston, and the 69 pitches were his fewest since July 25, 2009, when he lasted only three innings in a game the Rays trailed 9-1 and won 10-9 in 12 innings. The six runs were the most he allowed since June 13 against the Mets, and the 10 hits his most since May 10 against the Yankees.
"David will be back, David is fine, he's going to pitch really, really well the rest of this season,'' Maddon said. "It happens to everybody. That was just his hiccup tonight.''
It's somewhat of a common problem against the Rangers though. Price finally beat them — for the first time in 12 regular- and postseason starts — in April, but his overall numbers are horrid, especially in Arlington, where he is now 1-2 with a 10.26 ERA in four starts.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]