ARLINGTON, Texas -- A warning to opposing pitchers when facing a dialed-in Texas Rangers offense: If you attack the Rangers with early fastballs, they are likely to attack back.
David Price found out all about that in his shortest outing since early April. The Rangers' plan was pretty simple. If Price relied on the fastball and attacked the zone, the Rangers needed to jump on it.
The first inning was an indication of their willigness to do so, though they didn't get any results. Price needed just five pitches to get out the first three batters he faced, two of them on hard outs. He took a 2-0 lead into the second, but seven pitches later found himself in a tie game with the Rangers looking for more. Back-to-back home runs by Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz -- one to left field, the other to right-center -- on a total of five pitches tied the score. Mike Olt's grounder ended up giving the Rangers the lead.
The Rangers didn't stop hacking. They scored two more runs on three straight hits to open the third to take another lead and then, after the Rays tied it again, took the lead for good on three straight hits to start the fifth. Those hits ended Price's night at just 69 pitches and four innings (plus three batters).
"It's Texas; they're a good-hitting team and they're feeling it right now," Price said after the game, adding that he thought he threw some good pitches and the Rangers hit them anyway.
Of the 10 hits the Rangers got off Price, eight of them were on at-bats of four pitches or fewer. The other two were five-pitch at-bats.
"We were just trying to look for a pitch we could handle," said Beltre, who had four RBIs and continues his torrid pace at the plate. "He throws a lot of fastballs and locates a lot. He's not the kind of guy that's going to beat around the bush. He comes after hitters. We were ready to swing."
The early swings forced Price to an early exit. It was his shortest outing since he went three innings in his second start of the season in Boston on April 13. The 69 pitches were his fewest since July 25, 2009 at Toronto (56 pitches). The start ended a string of 12 straight outings of seven or more innings pitched, and it was his first loss since June 13 against the New York Mets.
Price does not like pitching in Arlington. He is 1-2 with a 10.26 ERA in four career starts at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. It's not as though he enjoys pitching to the Rangers in the postseason, either. He has had three career playoff starts versus Texas -- all at Tropicana Field -- and he has lost all of them, compiling a 4.65 ERA.
"When he decided to throw his fastball across the plate, we didn't miss it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He didn't get a chance to get to the rest of it. He threw a couple of cutters and some changeups, but he didn't get a chance to get to the rest of it. Beltre set the tone, Cruz set the tone, Olt had a big at-bat and Beltre just wasn't going to let us not win this game tonight."
Price can take some solace in the fact that he's not the only guy getting lit up by this offense, which was like a sleeping giant in June and July. They've clearly awoken in August. Texas has scored at least five runs in six straight games. They have 158 runs in August, tops in all of baseball. They are batting .293, again the best mark in the big leagues for August. All of this comes after they scored the fewest runs in all of baseball in July.