In losing, the Rays fell to 2-2 on their current road trip, but they did not drop any ground to the second-place Yankees, who fell to the Blue Jays, 6-1, to remain 2 1/2 games behind the Rays in the American League East. Meanwhile, the Rangers maintained their perch atop the AL West standings.
"They're a good team, so this is a good win for us," Rangers third baseman Michael Young said. "It's nice to get the first one against them, but we have to keep it going. You can't let down against them."
The Rays got busy early Friday night. Willy Aybar scored the first run thanks to an error by Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler on Carlos Pena's ground ball. Ben Zobrist then scored when Sean Rodriguez grounded into a force out before Carl Crawford singled with the bases loaded to score two more, giving Rays starter Wade Davis a 4-0 lead.
The Rangers answered, slowly at first with two in the bottom of the second on a two-run homer by Justin Smoak, then with a tidal wave in the fourth.
Josh Hamilton led off the fourth with a solo home run off Davis, and the inning grew worse from there as the Rangers tallied six more runs -- three of them coming on Vladimir Guerrero's bases-loaded triple -- to take a 9-4 lead.
The seven runs and seven hits were the most given up in an inning by the Rays this season. And for the Rangers, they enjoyed their biggest inning since scoring 11 runs on nine hits Sept. 26, also against the Rays.
"It's really frustrating when the offense gives you an early lead like that," said Davis, who took the loss in the shortest outing (without an injury being involved) by a Tampa Bay starter this season. "Most of the time you go out there and shut them down. Today wasn't that day."
Davis entered the game holding opponents to a .174 average with runners on, which ranked as the lowest among AL starters. Texas batters were 5-for-7 with runners on base Friday night.
Rays manager Joe Maddon cited command issues as being the root of Davis' problems, noting that command problems are magnified in Texas.
"Especially in this ballpark," Maddon said. "This ballpark is definitely hitter friendly, it always has been. I managed two years in the Texas League; Texas is very friendly to offensive players."
Davis said the heat did not bother him, rather he just left a lot of his pitches over the plate.
"I don't think today was so much command -- I think it was throwing quality strikes," Davis said. "I was in the strike zone, but just wasn't making quality pitches. ... You make mistakes to those guys and they're going to get you."
The Rays scored a run in the sixth when pinch-hitter Hank Blalock hit into a fielder's choice, and they added another in the seventh on a solo home run by Evan Longoria that cut the Rangers' lead to 9-6.
The Rays have now dropped eight of their last 11 games in Arlington, dating to 2008.
"Generally when we score six runs we win," Maddon said. "That's how we pitch and we play defense. So when you score six points, we really like to be able to win. However, this is the anomaly ballpark. It's different."
Having made successful comebacks in the final two games of the series against the Blue Jays, the Rays felt as though something magical might happen in the ninth when they had two on and two out with Pena representing the tying run at the plate. But the Rays slugger grounded out to second to end the game.
"I personally thought we had a shot to tie the ballgame right there," Pena said. "Not that I go up there trying to do it, you just kind of try to allow it to happen. And it didn't. So it's disappointing, but at the same time, we gave ourselves a shot once again, and that's a good sign.
"Even when things may not be going exactly as you want them to, you still put yourself in situations to win. If anything, that's something we can take positive out of this is that we were in it until the last swing."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.