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04/09/07 10:55 PM ET

Jackson's first start a loss to Rangers

Crawford's two-run homer not enough to beat Texas

ARLINGTON -- Edwin Jackson sat at his locker talking to reporters after the game when Rays manager Joe Maddon stopped by to let him know he liked the way the right-hander had pitched.

"It just didn't work out, but Jack was spectacular in a lot of ways today," Maddon said.

Yes, the Rangers took an 8-4 victory from the Devil Rays in which Jackson was tagged with the loss Monday night. But Jackson had shown something during his 5 2/3 innings of work. And the crowd of 21,547 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington might not have realized it, but what they witnessed could have been Jackson's coming of age party.

Jackson was making his first start of the season after winning a competitive battle to claim the No. 5 spot in the Rays' rotation. He appeared in seven games during Spring Training, including three starts, and led the club with a 1.74 ERA, allowing just four runs in 20 2/3 innings, but he had not pitched in a game since March 29. So the Rays had legitimate concerns he might be a little flat.

If Jackson had any rust, he didn't show it on Monday night.

"Felt good," Jackson said. "I wasn't sure how I was going to feel going out there since it had been awhile since I was on the mound. But I didn't feel like it would affect me too much."

Jackson had a confident look about him Monday night that he lacked in his initial campaign with the Rays in 2006.

"That was the plan from the beginning, from the beginning of Spring Training, aggressive, aggressive, aggressive," Jackson said. "I mean aggressive in a smart way. I mean, obviously you don't want to get too cocky, where you think you're just going to blow everyone away. But be aggressive down in the zone. Make hitters put the ball in play."

Akinori Iwamura helped Jackson dodge trouble in the third, when he dove to his right to make a backhanded stab of Kenny Lofton's line drive for the second out; had the ball shot past him, two runs would likely have scored. Iwamura then fielded a shot by Frank Catalanotto that took a wicked hop, and threw to first for the third out.

"How about those plays by Aki," Maddon said. "... The second one, taking that hop and picking it clean."

Jackson smiled at the mention of the defense.

"Aki made some great plays at third that really saved me," Jackson said. "Great defense all around the whole game. I tip my hat to the defense."

Iwamura put the Rays up, 2-0, with a second-inning single off Rangers starter Brendan McCarthy that drove home Ty Wigginton and Delmon Young.

The Rangers finally broke through against Jackson in the fourth when Michael Young led off with a single, stole second, and scored on Hank Blalock's RBI single. Ian Kinsler added a run-scoring double to tie the game at 2.

What could have been a soul-searching time for Maddon came in the sixth, when Jackson allowed back-to-back singles with two outs and had exceeded his 100-pitch limit. But given the nature of this particular start for Jackson, Maddon didn't hesitate to call upon Shawn Camp to relieve Jackson, who had thrown 105 pitches.

"I mean, that's always," said Jackson when asked if he wanted to remain in the game. "I don't think there's one pitcher in the league who doesn't want to stay in. It's just from being a competitor. Everyone always wants to stay in. No one ever wants the manager to come out and get them."

Maddon said he felt good about Camp coming in and getting a ground ball. Instead, Kinsler and Chris Stewart had back-to-back RBI singles to put the Rangers up, 4-2. Catalanotto singled off Ruddy Lugo to drive home two more before Young finished off the scoring in the sixth with a two-run double.

Carl Crawford hit his second home run of the season in the seventh with a man aboard for the Rays' last two runs. Crawford's shot made him Tampa Bay's all-time leader with 401 runs scored, breaking a tie with former Rays slugger Aubrey Huff.

While the Rays, in fact, lost their third consecutive game after getting off to a 2-1 start this season, there was reason to feel good about the promise of what kind of pitcher Jackson might develop into this season.

Jackson "is definitely effective," Kinsler said. "He has a lot of talent. He's someone we had to balance against, and Brandon McCarthy did a great job."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.