ARLINGTON -- Matt Harrison kept his pitches up in the zone. Ian Kinsler botched a routine grounder. Elvis Andrus was picked off at first. And the Tampa Bay Rays had the consistent James Shields on the mound.
Somehow, the Texas Rangers stayed within striking distance all night, bringing the tying run to the plate in the eighth. In the end, though, Tampa Bay left Rangers Ballpark with an 8-4 victory over Texas in a three-game series opener Friday night.
"They had us in a hole early and in the middle innings they added some big tack-on runs," Michael Young said. "We battled. It just wasn't our night tonight."
From the start, it didn't seem to be the Rangers' night.
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Rays leadoff batter Desmond Jennings opened the game with a single to left. Carlos Pena then sent a grounder to second, a potential double play ball, but Kinsler couldn't come up with it and was charged with his third error of the season.
It proved costly, as the next batter, Evan Longoria, belted a three-run home run over the center field fence. The Rays had a 4-0 lead by the end of the first after B.J. Upton's RBI single.
In his first three starts, Harrison had allowed a combined four runs over 21 2/3 innings.
The Rangers scored a run in the first, but it could have been more. Kinsler led off with a double and Andrus followed with a single to put runners at first and third with no outs. With Josh Hamilton up, Andrus was picked off.
Andrus credited Shields' pickoff move and said he slipped slightly on his way back to the bag.
"You certainly don't want to see Elvis get picked off there," manager Ron Washington said. "But you live with it. There was a lot of game left."
Texas pulled to within 7-3 in the fifth when Hamilton homered to right-center for a two-run shot.
After the Rays regained an 8-3 lead in the sixth, the Rangers answered with a solo shot by David Murphy in the bottom half.
The Rangers couldn't get closer than that. They had chances in the late innings, notably in the eighth, but didn't capitalize.
Nelson Cruz and Murphy had singles to start the eighth inning off Rays lefty J.P. Howell. Tampa Bay turned to right-hander Wade Davis, who struck out Mike Napoli.
Davis then induced a shallow popup to left field by Mitch Moreland, but Longoria bobbled the ball and was charged with an error. That brought up Kinsler, who represented the tying run with the bases loaded.
Facing Kinsler, Davis uncorked a pitch that got away from catcher Chris Gimenez. Fittingly in a mistake-filled night by the Rangers, Cruz hesitated before trying to come home and was thrown out.
"That situation there, maybe you should shut down," Washington said. "If he would have seen it right away, he could've walked across home plate."
Kinsler wound up drawing a walk to load the bases again, but Andrus flew out to center in an 11-pitch at-bat that started with a 3-0 count.
Andrus narrowly missed what could have been a game-tying grand slam in the at-bat, as he lofted one down the right-field line that curled foul.
"As soon as I hit it, with the wind, I knew there was a chance," Andrus said. "Then at the last second it went [foul]. I haven't gotten that extra luck you want as a hitter, but you've got to continue competing."
The Rangers did compete all night, staying in the game despite the mishaps.
"We just couldn't sustain anything against James Shields," Washington said. "Then we put ourselves in position another time when we had some runners out there, but couldn't get that hit. We fought. As long as you keep yourself one swing away, I'll take that."