Holland roughed up again as Texas Rangers drop first series

ARLINGTON -- The roller-coaster ride that Derek Holland took the Texas Rangers on last season was back in operation Sunday night.

Making matters worse is that Josh Hamilton wasn't around for the whole trip.

Holland allowed five runs in seven innings, and Hamilton was forced to leave after two innings because of back stiffness in Tampa Bay's 5-2 victory that handed the Rangers their first series loss of the season.

Hamilton is listed as day-to-day, but could play tonight as the Rangers open on a 10-game road trip at Toronto. Holland could be listed as an early-season question mark after two shaky starts on the six-game homestand, but the Rangers remain confident in the left-hander.

"It's a season," manager Ron Washington said. "He's going to have to make some adjustments, and we know he will. It hasn't come all together yet, but it will."

Five Rays hitters drove in a run to back left-hander David Price, who beat the Rangers for the first time in his career. Tampa Bay also snapped the Rangers' club-record run of six consecutive series victories to open the season.

Holland (2-2) made the Rays look overmatched in a 1-2-3 first inning that included an infield popup and two strikeouts. But he was exceedingly hittable in the second, an inning that started with four straight hits.

None was a cheap one, either, as Ben Zobrist tripled, Jeff Keppinger singled, and B.J. Upton and Luke Scott doubled. Even the first out, a sacrifice fly by Sean Rodriguez, took Nelson Cruz to the right-field wall.

"I caught too much plate," Holland said. "I was trying to make the pitches I wanted, but you've got to give them credit. They're a good hitting team. And they made sure I paid for my mistakes."

The Rays would add another run in the third on two more hits before Holland settled down. He issued only two singles over the next three innings before Tampa Bay got him again in the seventh on a two-out triple by Desmond Jennings.

Holland's ERA climbed to 5.13 after five starts, and he lost for the second straight start at Rangers Ballpark after entering the homestand without a home loss since July 2.

He walked only two and struck out eight to match his season-high, but he also gave up nine hits and got a terrific throw from Nelson Cruz to cut down a runner at home to end the third.

The Yankees beat Holland to open the homestand by scoring seven runs on nine hits in six innings April 23.

"Just going to keep grinding," he said. "I'm throwing strikes. That's the main thing. I don't really feel like I'm doing too much wrong."

Hamilton gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead only three batters into the game with a ground single up the middle.

But he felt some discomfort in his back as he left the batter's box and was grabbing at his back as he returned to the dugout after sliding into second base on a forceout.

He played the second inning in left field but was replaced by David Murphy to start the third. Murphy struck out in all three of his at-bats.

"It's no big deal," said Washington, who was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing a called third strike against Ian Kinsler. "We just took him out."

The Rangers' other run came in the fifth on an RBI groundout by Elvis Andrus. Price snuffed out a two-out chance in the fourth by striking out Mike Napoli, and survived a 1-2-3 sixth despite two fly balls that reached the warning track and a third that required a sliding catch by Jennings in left field.

The Rangers made it interesting in the ninth, loading the bases with two outs for Kinsler.

But his line drive back up the middle was snared by pitcher Fernando Rodney for the final out.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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