ARLINGTON -- Rangers starter Derek Holland was not at his best Monday night. He admitted that.
But third baseman Adrian Beltre has been for a week and so has the bullpen for an even longer stretch, and they proved to be the difference on a night when the Rangers were able to earn a big victory over the hottest pitcher in baseball.
Beltre drove in four runs with three hits off left-hander David Price, and the relief combination of Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan made a one-run lead stand up in the Rangers' 6-5 victory over the Rays at the Ballpark in Arlington.
"Beltre was not going to let us lose this game and the bullpen was not going to let us lose this game," Rangers manager Ron Washington said after his team won for the ninth time in 12 games.
The Rangers remain 5 1/2 games ahead of the Athletics in the American League West with 34 games to play. The Angels, who were off Monday, are now 10 games back."This win means a lot," Beltre said. "We knew we were facing one of the best pitchers in the league so our offense was ready. We knew he was going to throw his fastball and be around the plate so we put some pretty good swings on him."
Holland, 9-6 with a 4.90 ERA, earned the win despite allowing five runs in six innings. He gave up five hits and a walk while striking out five in 94 pitches. This is the second time in August that the Rangers have won with Holland on the mound going against one of the best pitchers in the game. Holland also started in a 2-1 victory against the Tigers and Justin Verlander on Aug. 11.
"Any time you go up against a guy like Price or Verlander, the main thing is to stay out there and go longer than they do," Holland said. "I didn't have my best stuff, I definitely didn't have my best fastball, but I think I did a very good of battling."
Holland, after struggling for four-plus innings, did retire the last six batters he faced, and that allowed him to turn over a one-run lead to the bullpen going into the seventh.
"That was huge," Washington said. "Both left-handers were getting it handed to them early and both offenses wouldn't stop. But Derek got some big outs at the end and he was the last one standing."
Price came into the game having not allowed a run in his last 17 innings and led the league with a 2.28 ERA. But the Rangers scored six runs off him in four-plus innings, the most he has allowed in a game since June 13 against the Mets. That was also the last time he lost a game. Price was 8-0 with a 1.56 ERA in his last 12 starts."They started hitting balls over the fence and driving balls into the gap," Price said. "That's what changed. I've had a lot of hard-hit balls the last month and a half and they go right at guys. Tonight that wasn't the case. I felt like every ball they put in play and was going to get down or find a hole. They hit a lot of balls hard."
Beltre did much of the damage. He and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back home runs in the second to help the Rangers take a 3-2 lead. He also had a two-run double in the third and an RBI single in the fifth that gave the Rangers a 6-5 lead.
Beltre, who was named the American League Player of the Week on Monday, is 13-for-25 with three doubles, six home runs and 13 RBIs in his last six games.
"He's been locked in for the last week and it has been fun to watch," designated hitter Michael Young said. "He's on an absolute tear. He's definitely leading the way offensively."
Beltre's fifth-inning single drove Price from the game and the Rangers did not get another hit the rest of the night. Neither did the Rays.
Holland set down the side in order in the sixth and then came the march of the Rangers' power relievers. Ogando struck out two in setting down the side in order in the seventh, Adams did the same thing in the eighth and ditto for Nathan in the ninth.
Nathan has now been successful in 24 straight save opportunities going back to April 11. More recently, Rangers relievers have combined to go 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA in their last 17 games while holding opponents to a .219 batting average.
"We thought it was going to be a good pitchers' battle tonight," Adams said. "Both teams came out swinging, but fortunately they were able to hand it off to us with a lead and we did a good job of stopping it."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.