ARLINGTON -- David Price has been so good so many times this season that Monday night's outing seemed improbable yet inevitable.
Price didn't get out of the fifth inning and the Rays took a 6-5 loss to the Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"It happens to everybody," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That was just his hiccup tonight."
In defeat, the Rays (70-58) lost their third consecutive game and fell out of the top spot in the American League Wild Card race as the Athletics and Orioles won to put each a half a game ahead in the standings. On the positive side, the Yankees lost, which means the Rays remained four games behind the AL East division leader.
"That's OK, we'll get it back," said Maddon when asked about the standings. "This thing is going to ebb and flow the rest of the season. There's no question it's going to come down to the nubs. Our goal is still to win the division and not just get in as a Wild Card."
The Rays have now lost nine of their last 10 one-run games and they are 6-18 in one-run games since May 28 after starting the season 12-4.
"We've just been losing way too many of those close games," Maddon said. "We've got to figure out a way to come out on the other side."
Price, who is one of the frontrunners for this year's AL Cy Young Award, has been a portrait of consistency all season. He brought a string of 12 consecutive quality starts into his 26th start of the season and he had an eight-game winning streak. Both of those streaks came to an end Monday night as he took his fifth loss.
"This means a lot," Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "We knew we were facing one of the best pitchers in the league so our offense was ready. We knew he was going to throw his fastball and be around the plate so we put some pretty good swings on him."
Price allowed six runs on 10 hits in four-plus innings, throwing just 69 pitches -- the fewest number of pitches he has thrown in a game since July 25, 2009, when he threw 56 in a three-inning stint in Toronto.
Price entered the game with the AL's lowest ERA at 2.28, but that number swelled to 2.53 during his outing, putting him in third place behind Felix Hernandez (2.43) and Justin Verlander (2.50).
The Rays got off to a quick start when Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Rangers starter Derek Holland.
After Price used just five pitches to get three outs in the first, the Rangers got busy in the second via back-to-back home runs by Beltre and Nelson Cruz. Mike Olt's groundout to shortstop drove home another run to put the Rangers on top, 3-2.
When asked if anything changed prior to the second inning, Price answered: "They started hitting balls over the fence and driving balls into the gap. That's what changed."
B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly in the third tied the game, but Beltre's two-run double in the bottom half of the inning gave the Rangers a 5-3 lead.
Upton tripled home a run and scored on Ben Zobrist's single in the fifth to tie the score at 5. Texas again took the lead in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI single by Beltre that chased Price in the process.
"I thought the hits I gave up early I thought those were good pitches," Price said. "The home run Beltre hit, I was fine with that. And the home run Cruz hit, that was a good changeup. They put good swings on it and when you do that here in Texas, that ball flies. They hit those balls extremely well. That's a good hitting team; they've feeling good right now. They didn't take it easy on me, by any means."
Both bullpens pitched well. Burke Badenhop, Kyle Farnsworth and Wade Davis got the final 12 outs without allowing a run. Unfortunately for the Rays, the Rangers' bullpen proved to be equally as effective after Holland left the game prior to the seventh. Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan slammed the door on any hopes of a Rays comeback by pitching three scoreless frames.
Having their ace flame out in the first game of a six-game road trip was not the kickoff the Rays or Price envisioned. The Rays ace sounded as though he was already looking to put Monday night's start behind him.
"It was just one of those days," Price said. "Get back on it whenever I'm going next and get after it in Toronto [on Saturday]."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.