ARLINGTON, Texas — Rays left-hander David Price entered Sunday's start well aware of the fact that the Rangers were the only American League team he has faced and never beaten.
After all, Price described it as having a piano on his back.
Consider it lifted. Price was impressive over 6? innings, carrying the Rays to a 5-2 victory in front of an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball audience.
"I can turn that page now," Price said. "It feels good."
But Price felt even better about how the victory helped clinch the three-game series from the previously red-hot Rangers, who had the best record in baseball and had not dropped a series this season. Tampa Bay (14-8) has won seven of its past eight and is tied for first place in the AL East, heading back to the Trop to begin a seven-game homestand.
"We need to be able to play these better teams like this in their building," manager Joe Maddon said. "The Rangers are really good, but I think the Rays are, too."
The Rangers (16-6) certainly made it interesting in the ninth, when rain and lightning began to fill the night sky. But after reliever Fernando Rodney loaded the bases, thanks to his error and a hit batsmen, he shut the door in catching Ian Kinsler's line out, preserving his seventh save in as many tries.
"I tried to make it quick," Rodney said. "But we got it done."
Price helped set the tone with a strong outing. He wasn't as sharp as he was in Tuesday's complete-game shutout over the Angels, but he held the Rangers to just two runs on six hits. Price is now 1-3 with a 5.22 ERA in 10 career starts against Texas, which he says "has the best lineup in baseball." The only AL team Price has not pitched against is the Mariners.
"I thought he pitched with a lot of composure," Maddon said. "And I thought his tempo got better as the game was in progress."
The Rays gave Price (4-1) plenty of support, with the most damage coming in the three-run second. Tampa Bay started with five consecutive hits off left-hander Derek Holland, including a triple by Ben Zobrist, one of three hits by the rightfielder. Jeff Keppinger had two hits of his own, and Desmond Jennings picked up an RBI triple as well as a sliding catch in leftfield.
Tampa Bay then caught a huge break early on when Rangers centerfielder Josh Hamilton, the league's leader in homers and RBIs, had to leave after the second inning due to back tightness. Hamilton had tagged the Rays for six RBIs in the series.
But Maddon said the key to the game was veteran Joel Peralta, who relieved Price in the seventh and threw 1? scoreless innings. The biggest moment came when he retired Kinsler to end the seventh in an 11-pitch at-bat. Peralta fell behind 3-and-1 but battled back. Kinsler fouled off five consecutive 3-and-2 pitches before he was caught looking on a split-finger pitch. Kinsler argued the call, and so did Rangers manager Ron Washington, who got ejected on his 60th birthday.
"It was a little high," Peralta said with a smile. "But it was a strike."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]