ARLINGTON -- David Price effectively removed the monkey from his back on Sunday night when he claimed his first career victory against the Rangers in a 5-2 Rays win at Rangers Ballpark with 43,475 watching.
The victory gave the Rays their fourth consecutive series win. They have won nine of their last 11 games to remain in a tie with the Orioles for first place in the American League East.
"Personally, for myself, I've never beat those guys," Price said. "So first and foremost, that feels great. I'm pumped that we won, as well. I can turn that page now.
"... I feel like that's the best lineup in baseball. They've got power one through nine. They've got speed mixed in there and they can hit the ball out to any part of the ballpark. You have to be able to make pitches. Keep the ball down."
Price first faced the Rangers on July 4, 2009, at Rangers Ballpark -- when he allowed six earned runs in 1 1/3 innings in a game he remembers as his worst start ever. Since then he had not had any success against the Rangers, posting an 0-3 mark with a 5.67 ERA in six starts.
Price held the Rangers to two runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings on Sunday to move to 4-1 on the season. But at the outset, the Rays left-hander looked as though he might be headed for another rough outing.
Josh Hamilton's one-out single in the first scored Elvis Andrus to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Hamilton had to leave the game due to back stiffness in the top of the third, after going 4-for-9 with a home run, six RBIs and three runs scored for the weekend.
The Rays got busy in the second, when Ben Zobrist hit a leadoff triple against Derek Holland and scored on Jeff Keppinger's single to right. B.J. Upton's double moved Keppinger to third before Luke Scott doubled to drive home Keppinger. Sean Rodriguez's sacrifice fly scored Upton from third to put the Rays up, 3-1.
"We went out there, I gave up one in the first and we bounced back with three in the second," Price said. "It's always big when they can get that run back and add to the lead. They made it easier on me tonight."
Zobrist doubled home Carlos Pena with one out in the second to push the lead to 4-1.
The Rangers' best chance against Price came in the fifth, when they had runners in scoring position with one out. Andrus grounded out to shortstop to drive home Yorvit Torrealba to cut the lead to 4-2. Price then struck out David Murphy to end the threat.
"[Price] threw well, so you have to give credit where credit is due," Rangers designated hitter Michael Young said. "But as an offense, it's our responsibility to score runs. We've got to find a way to make adjustments. Any time we're on the field, we feel we have a chance to score runs. David is a good pitcher and threw the ball well tonight, but we still take pride in being able to score runs. And we didn't get it done."
Tampa Bay added an insurance run in the seventh, when Desmond Jennings tripled to left-center field to drive home Sean Rodriguez for a 5-2 lead.
Price got the first out in the seventh before Joel Peralta took over and got the final two outs by striking out pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland and Ian Kinsler, who watched the third strike. Kinsler argued briefly with home-plate umpire Dan Bellino before Rangers manager Ron Washington joined the fray. Shortly thereafter, Washington was ejected on a night when he celebrated his 60th birthday.
"I though Joel Peralta was the key to the game and what he did when he came in and striking out Moreland," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought that they may pinch-hit there, and I like the matchup a lot. And he gets a great at-bat by Kinsler and fights through that. Joel was kind of the linchpin through that whole situation tonight."
Peralta also pitched a scoreless eighth leading up to closer Fernando Rodney in the ninth, which is where things got interesting.
Rodney, who entered the game 6-for-6 in closing situations, surrendered a one-out single to Nelson Cruz before hitting Mike Napoli. After striking out Torrealba looking, Moreland hit a slow roller that Rodney bobbled and kicked into foul territory to load the bases. Kinsler then strolled to the plate and unloaded a line drive that Rodney stabbed for the third out.
"I thought Fernando was great," Maddon said. "... I thought he had great stuff. He was throwing a lot of strikes. [But there were] a lot of unfortunate moments that led to [having] the bases loaded. But overall, he threw the ball outstanding."
The Rays have navigated a beginning-of-the-year stretch highlighted by the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Tigers, and Rangers with a mark has them six games over .500 at 14-8.
"We talked about this, me and [pitching coach Jim] Hickey, a long time before the season started," Price said. "And if we were .500 through this first stretch of the season, that was good, with the teams we've been playing. I feel like we've played quite a few postseason teams already. We've played well. We've played good baseball. And I still feel like we can get better."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.