ARLINGTON -- For all the problems Matt Harrison encountered Wednesday night, especially in the first two innings of his 26th start this season, blatant honesty wasn't one of them.
Neither was accountability.
"I sucked tonight," Harrison said after an 8-4 loss to Tampa Bay. "I just flat-out stunk with my location and command, and put us in a big hole early in the game.
"Just a bad night."
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Harrison allowed three of the four homers hit by Tampa Bay, including a two-run shot by Evan Longoria and a three-run blow by B.J. Upton, as the Rays avoided a three-game sweep at Rangers Ballpark.
Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton homered for the Rangers before their bats went cold against Tampa Bay's stout bullpen.
The loss left the Rangers with a 4 1/2-game lead in the American League West as they enter their first off day since Aug. 9. They went 7-3 on their 10-game homestand, yet lost a half-game in the standings to Oakland.
"I think this homestand you saw a team that recognizes the stretch drive is right around the corner," veteran Michael Young said. "We've said all along we wanted to improve as the season progressed. I think we've done that."
Harrison (15-8) wasn't right from the start, allowing hits to four of the first five hitters. Included was an RBI double by Ben Zobrist ahead of Longoria's two-run shot to center field.
Harrison admitted that frustration set in after the first inning, and he lost his focus heading into the second inning.
That frame didn't go any better, as the Rays collected a one-out triple from Sam Fuld and a walk by Desmond Jennings before Upton found the seats for a quick 6-0 lead.
"I tried to throw a fastball up in the zone after he missed the second strike," Harrison said. "I didn't get it there, and left it right down the middle. It was just poor execution on my part."
The Rangers made things interesting by scoring the game's next four runs. Moreland started the comeback with a two-run homer in the second, a 426-foot opposite-field shot, and Nelson Cruz brought home Elvis Andrus in the third with a groundout.
Hamilton's 36th homer of the season came in the fifth and brought the Rangers within two runs.
Harrison, though, yielded a homer to Elliott Johnson to start the sixth. Longoria struck again in the ninth, taking Alexi Ogando out for a solo shot.
And that was that. The Rays' bullpen retired 13 of the final 14 batters after starter Alex Cobb was removed after only 4 2/3 innings.
"It's tough when you're down early like that," said outfielder David Murphy, who collected two of the Rangers' nine hits. "Harry had a rare off night. It happens.
"We need to focus on the positive, and that's that we won the series, and just keep playing good baseball. We've been playing well, we've been winning series, and I think that's a good goal to have."
Harrison lost for the second time this season to the Rays, and neither has been close. He allowed seven runs on 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings, which almost matched an April 27 start in which he allowed seven runs on 14 hits in five innings.
The All-Star could face Tampa Bay again in 11 days.
"Twenty-six hits in two games against the same team isn't very good," Harrison said. "They've had my number the first two starts this year. I just need to make some adjustments, and look at these two games and see what went wrong."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760