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For starters, Rays run into tough rookie

Rays have no answer for Texas rookie

ARLINGTON -- In recent weeks the Rays have managed to defeat the likes of some pretty accomplished starting pitchers, including former Cy Young Award winners Johan Santana and Roy Halladay.

So, in theory, the Rays' offense should feast on a rookie starter like fine cuisine, only that's not the way it has gone down.

Saturday night, for the third consecutive game, the Rays were defeated by a rookie starter as the Rangers took a 12-4 win with a crowd of 43,809 watching at Rangers Ballpark.

The loss sent the Rays reeling to their third consecutive loss after having a season-high seven-game winning streak. The Rays also fell to 2-3 on their current six-game road trip.

Ricky Romero got the win in a 5-0 Blue Jays victory over the Rays Thursday, Tommy Hunter took care of business Friday night in a 3-1 Rangers win and Saturday belonged to rookie left-hander Derek Holland.

"It's tough to tell [if Holland was doing anything different] when you face a guy for the first time," B.J. Upton said. "It's kind of what we've had the last three games. So I think that goes for everybody, hitters and pitchers. A lot of guys, when they're a rookie, they pitch a little bit different than a couple of years later."

Holland kept the Rays off balance for six innings and did a nice job of pitching with the lead en route to his second career win and his first win as a starter.

"It matters he got a win," said Rangers manager Ron Washington, stressing the importance of Holland getting his first win in a game he started.

Rays manager Joe Maddon conceded that his team has had a hard time against rookie starters recently.

"Their guy last night was very good," Maddon said. "I thought tonight we had better at-bats. Part of tonight was getting down so much. That was part of having a more difficult time with their starter tonight."

If any rookie is supposed to being the job on the mound this season, Rays left-hander David Price is the guy. But he followed his best start of the season Sunday against the Marlins with his worst Saturday night against the Rangers.

"I'm embarrassed, can't really put words on that," Price said. "We needed me to stop the bleeding tonight and I kind of let us down. I've got to be able to get back out there with that mindset and the attitude that I know I belong. I know I'm going to win every time out. And I'm going to help this team win a lot of games. I've got to get back to that mindset."

Price struggled from the beginning. After striking out Ian Kinsler to start his outing, he walked Michael Young and Marlon Byrd before Andruw Jones hit an 0-1 pitch 394 feet over the left-field wall.

Jason Bartlett got the Rays on the board with a solo home run off Holland with two outs in the second, but Price couldn't get going in the second inning either.

Price started the second by striking out the leadoff hitter, David Murphy, but Taylor Teagarden followed with a double, then Price issued free passes to Elvis Andrus and Kinsler to load the bases for Young, who doubled to center field to empty the bases and put the Rangers up 6-1.

"I'm out there on the mound just thinking about everything that I should not be thinking about," Price said. "I've got to think about just here it is, hit it. That's what got me to this level. That's not what I did at Vandy. It's not what I did at Vero [Beach]. It's not what I did at Double-A, it's not what I did in the World Series last year. Here it is, hit it and if you're on it I'll throw you something else.

"I've got to get back to that mindset because it's not easy to hit 94 or 95 [mph]. Any hitter will tell you that. And if you're getting them in the hole, 0-1, 1-2, 0-2 and they start putting defensive swings on, that's when things start happening for you."

Dioner Navarro made the game a little interesting with a three-run homer in the fifth, but the Rangers offense never shut down with two in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the eighth to equal the final margin.

"I thought we hit some balls pretty well that were at folks. It just happens," Maddon said. "Right now they're finding the green, green grass of home. ... They did outhit us, they outplayed us, they out-defensed us, they out-pitched us."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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