The Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers have met in the postseason each of the last two years. The results of their six head-to-head matchups over the next two weeks may determine whether they'll have the chance to square off in October yet again.
Rays starter David Price seeks another stellar performance when Tampa Bay visits Texas in the opener of a three-game series Monday night.
The Rays gained ground on the New York Yankees in the AL East by winning 14 of 17 from Aug. 7-23, but they dropped the final two games of their weekend series with Oakland - losing 4-2 on Saturday before hitting the road as the Republican National Convention came to town.
Tampa Bay (70-57) now trails the Yankees by four games, and leads an AL wild-card race in which one-half game separates four teams for two spots.
"We've just got to be playing at the top of our game, which I think we are," manager Joe Maddon told the Rays' official website. "I think, overall, our game has picked up a lot.
"I feel good about where we're at right now, and I feel good about how it looks moving forward."
Price (16-4, 2.28 ERA) unquestionably has been at the top of his game lately, not having lost since June 13 and having won a franchise-record eight consecutive decisions.
The left-hander has furthered his case for becoming Tampa Bay's first Cy Young Award winner by going 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA over his last four starts, allowing two runs in 30 innings. He gave up three hits in eight scoreless innings of the Rays' 1-0, 10-inning loss to Kansas City on Tuesday.
"I'll go out there and continue doing the same things I've been doing," Price told the team's official website.
Price had gone 0-6 with a 5.30 ERA in his first nine starts - including postseason - versus the Rangers before giving up two runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-2 victory in the finale of a three-game series April 29 at Texas.
Tampa Bay won twice in that set as the teams met for the first time since the Rangers knocked off the Rays in four games in last year's AL division series en route to their second straight World Series appearance. Texas also eliminated Tampa Bay in a 2010 ALDS, winning in five games.
The Rangers (75-52) own the AL's best record and a 5 1/2 game lead in the West despite falling 6-5 to Minnesota on Sunday.
Josh Hamilton hit his 35th homer and drove in four runs, but Texas had its four-game winning streak snapped.
The Rangers will look to bounce back with some help from Derek Holland (8-6, 4.92), who is coming off his first victory since July 25.
The left-hander gave up three runs in seven innings of a 12-3 win over Baltimore on Wednesday after going 0-1 with a 5.88 ERA over his previous four starts.
"Hopefully, (Wednesday was) the night to get him over the hump where he can be consistent," manager Ron Washington told the Rangers' official website. "He's been throwing the ball well."
Holland lost to Price in April when he allowed five runs while striking out eight in seven innings. He's 3-2 with a 6.49 ERA in six regular-season starts versus the Rays, with B.J. Upton (7 for 15, homer), Jeff Keppinger (4 for 9) and Evan Longoria (6 for 16, four doubles, homer) all hitting him well.
The Rays will host the Rangers for three more crucial games Sept. 7-9.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|August 05, 2012||Ben Zobrist||Day-to-Day||Left game - upper back spasms|
|July 21, 2012||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
|July 21, 2012||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
|July 21, 2012||Alex Cobb||Day-to-Day||Left game - right knee contusion|
|July 02, 2012||Hideki Matsui||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
|June 30, 2012||Jeremy Hellickson||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right shin|
|August 22, 2012||Yu Darvish||Day-to-Day||Right quad tightness|
|August 11, 2012||Mike Napoli||15-Day DL||Strained left quadriceps|
|August 05, 2012||Elvis Andrus||Day-to-Day||Left game - shoulder soreness|
|July 19, 2012||Colby Lewis||60-Day DL||Torn flexor tendon, right elbow|
|July 06, 2012||Josh Hamilton||Day-to-Day||Left game - Lower back spasms|
|June 26, 2012||Mark Lowe||15-Day DL||Strained right intercostal muscle|
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Adrian Beltre extended his hot seven-game streak into another week.
Beltre was 3 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs, including driving in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth inning, to lead the Texas Rangers to a 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
Elvis Andrus scored on Beltre's single to give the AL West leaders a series-opening win. Nelson Cruz also homered and Mike Olt added an RBI for Texas.
Derek Holland (9-6) got the win, giving up five runs - three earned - on six hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked one.
Beltre, who was selected AL player of the week after a three-homer game and another in which he hit for the cycle, is hitting .385 with six homers 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 earned his 23rd consecutive save opportunity and 26th this season.
Tampa Bay ace David Price (16-5) snapped a stretch of 12 consecutive quality starts in which he had pitched at least seven innings. The lefty, who entered with a majors-low 2.28 ERA and tied for the league lead for 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 is 1-3 with a 6.04 ERA. In four starts at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, his ERA is 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."
The Rangers continually jumped on first-pitch fastballs.
"We were trying to look for a pitch we could handle," said Beltre, noting that Price likes to get ahead of hitters. "He comes after hitters, so we were ready."
The Rays entered with the AL's best road record (35-27), but found they were no match for Beltre.
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 a 2-0 deficit - the first time Price has allowed consecutive homers in his career.
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 strikeout 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."
B.J. Upton's run-scoring triple and Zobrist's RBI single tied the score at 5-all in the fifth.
An error led to two unearned runs for the Rays in the first inning.
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 on 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."
The Rays' Nos. 5-9 hitters went 0 for 18 with eight strikeouts.
Notes: With the home run and a single, Longoria is hitting .435 (10 for 23) lifetime against Rangers starter Holland. ... Beltre has had 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 .