ARLINGTON -- The reigning player of the week in the American League jump-started his re-election campaign Monday night against one of the contenders to be the league's Cy Young winner.
Adrian Beltre also jump-started a Texas Rangers offense that had a swing early/swing often approach against David Price, who entered as the hottest pitcher in baseball but couldn't get out of the fifth inning at Rangers Ballpark.
Beltre drove in four runs and missed his second cycle in four days by a triple, and he and Nelson Cruz swatted back-to-back homers in the second inning to get the Rangers rolling toward a 6-5 victory over Tampa Bay.
The victory helped the Rangers maintain a 5 1/2-game lead over Oakland in the AL West, and their lead over third-place Los Angeles jumped to 10 games.
"Beltre just wasn't going to let us lose this game tonight," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's locked in, and he's doing it against pretty good pitchers. And we need everything he's giving us right now."
Price (16-5) entered with an 8-0 record and 1.56 ERA in his previous 12 starts, and he beat the Rangers for the first time in his career in April. But it was in that start that the Rangers saw him get ahead with fastballs and put them away with off-speed pitches.
Beltre said the Rangers were confident that Price would come at them early, and no team in baseball hits the heater better than the Rangers.
"We had a better game plan today, and it worked out," Beltre said. "The approach was looking for a pitch you could handle. We know he's the kind of guy who comes after hitters."
Derek Holland gave up five runs (three earned) in six innings to win his second consecutive start, and he and three relievers combined to retire the final 15 Rays batters.
Tampa Bay didn't have a hit after the fifth, and Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan posted similar-looking perfect innings: Strike out the first two hitters before getting the fielders in the act for the third out.
"They came out and got us nine big outs, and the three Derek got in the sixth were huge, too," Washington said. "Both lefties were getting it handed to them. The offenses just wouldn't stop."
But the Rangers' defense lagged again early, as Elvis Andrus committed an error on a soft liner by B.J. Upton in the first inning and failed to turn a double play on a grounder by the next batter, Ben Zobrist.
Evan Longoria followed with a two-run homer for a 2-0 Rays lead.
Beltre and Cruz erased the hole with the Rangers' seventh instance of back-to-back homers this season, and Mike Olt put the Rangers in the lead with an RBI groundout four batters later.
Tampa Bay needed two batters in the third to erase the deficit, after a leadoff triple by Desmond Jennings that bounced off Josh Hamilton's glove. Upton followed with a sacrifice fly to tie it 3-3.
The Rangers kept on hitting, plating two more in their half of the third as a double by Beltre scored Andrus and Hamilton. But the Rays fought back in the fifth as an Upton triple scored Jennings and a Zobrist single knotted things at 5-5.
Price, though, didn't have answer for the same combination that got him in the third. Andrus and Hamilton started the Rangers' half with two more singles, and Beltre dropped a single into left field to score Andrus with the go-ahead run.
Holland (9-6) zeroed in for a scoreless sixth against the bottom third of the Rays' order. It was the first four hitters who punished Holland, going 6 for 11 with all five RBIs.
"My job is to go out there and shut down the opponent, keep them on the ground while we can," Holland said. "Earlier in the game I didn't do a great job of it. As the game progressed I felt I did a much better job of keeping them down when I could."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760