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TEX@TB: Kinsler gives Rangers life with homer

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rangers know each game down the stretch is crucial, considering how slim of a lead they have over the Angels in the American League West.

Going into Wednesday's contest against the Rays, they also knew they had a great chance of taking the series and going home with a lead greater than when they had begun a six-game road trip, given the amount of runs they have scored this season when Derek Holland takes the hill.

But despite Ian Kinsler making things interesting when he hit his second solo homer of the game in the ninth inning off Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth to give the Rangers life, Mark Lowe could not keep Desmond Jennings from ending things, as the rookie outfielder hit a walk-off homer in the 10th on the first pitch he saw to give Texas a 5-4 loss.

The loss dropped the Rangers to 16-22 in one-run games and 4-5 in extra-inning contests this season.

"I just left the fastball up," Lowe said. "I was trying to get ahead of him and he was able to turn on it. It feels horrible to let the team down that way, but I know we'll come back from it."

The loss spoiled Holland's third consecutive quality start, the first such streak of his career, as the 24-year-old left-hander allowed four runs and struck out nine over 6 2/3 innings.

"Holland gave us a chance," manager Ron Washington said. "He gave up two runs early on back-to-back doubles, but he settled down and did a good job of keeping us in it."

Holland hurt himself with two of the three walks he issued, with the first one -- a leadoff pass to Jennings in the first -- leading to a two-run double by Ben Zobrist following Evan Longoria's ground-rule double.

"A couple walks, falling behind the hitters, I think hurt, but overall I thought I did a fairly good job of keeping the team in the game," said Holland, who lost for just the second time in his last 12 starts.

The other walk, a one-out one to Kelly Shoppach in the second, eventually resulted in the Rangers falling behind, 3-0, when Shoppach scored on an error by Kinsler, whose throw to first trying to get B.J. Upton on a slow roller sailed wide of Michael Young.

"I just didn't have a good grip on the ball," Kinsler said. "If I come up with that ball, get a better grip on it, then he's probably out, but I just didn't pick it up right."

After the first two innings, Holland settled down and looked entirely different as the Rays' order came back around. He retired nine in a row at one point and had six consecutive strikeouts over the fourth and fifth innings.

"The big thing that hurt me was not expanding [the strike zone] with my offspeed pitches," said Holland, who tossed 67 strikes over his 107-pitch outing. "I felt like I was working off my fastball better [after the first inning]. The main thing is just being able to live off your fastball, mix some speeds, and it keeps them off-balance. Once that first inning came through, I knew we had a great offense, so I just needed to shut them down and go from there."

Holland is used to support, with the Rangers scoring a Major League-best 7.52 runs per game for him entering Wednesday's contest, including double-digit figures in each of his last two wins. The Rangers (81-63) had a difficult time of it initially, despite challenging Rays starter David Price, who came in ranked fifth in the AL in strikeouts and finished the day with five to boost his season total to 200.

"Not every night you can put runs on the board," Washington said. "I thought Price came out and battled. He did a good job. We worked him hard. We got him out of there after five innings, but he was out there competing, and that's what he does and you have to give him credit. He kept his team in the ballgame, too. One swing of the game was the difference."

After putting runners on board in the first two innings with nothing to show, the Rangers plated a run in the fourth when Adrian Beltre scored on an error by Sean Rodriguez.

Kinsler then led off the fifth with a homer to bring the Rangers to within a 3-2 deficit and silence the 11,190 in attendance for a brief moment.

Kinsler has seven homers over his past seven games and has an AL-leading 15 home runs since the All-Star break. Interestingly enough, he has hit 13 of his 28 home runs against AL East pitching and only five vs. AL West pitchers.

"These games mean a lot, and the focus level needs to be turned up," said Kinsler, who has 11 RBIs over the seven contests. "It's going well. I want it to continue and just help my team any way I can. It's frustrating when you lose, but it's more frustrating when you produce and do something good offensively and you still walk away with the loss.

"We played well. It was a tough loss, but anytime you face Price, it's going to be tough to score runs."

Texas seemed as if it would open things up against Price after Kinsler's homer in the fifth when Elvis Andrus followed the dinger with a walk, but Andrus was caught stealing during Josh Hamilton's at-bat. After Hamilton reached on a bloop single and was forced out at second on a fielder's-choice grounder by Young, Beltre singled before the Rangers' chance of scoring in the frame ended with Mike Napoli called out on strikes.

Beltre extended his hitting streak to 13 games on the single, the longest active streak in the AL.

The Rangers put runners on base again in the sixth when David Murphy reached on a leadoff single, but Murphy was forced out at second on Yorvit Torrealba's fielder's choice and Craig Gentry grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Holland allowed another run in the sixth inning on Brandon Guyer's solo shot to left, his second of the season, before leaving with two outs in the seventh.

The Rangers inched closer in the eighth, narrowing the score to 4-3 when Napoli smacked a solo homer off Rays reliever Joel Peralta.

The home run was Napoli's 24th of the season and was part of a 4-for-5 day. Napoli is batting .364 (64-for-176) with 14 homers and 37 RBIs in 50 games since coming off the disabled list on July 4.

"Napoli is really playing at a different level right now offensively than I've ever seen him," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

It's the level the Rangers will have to reach the next 15 games leading up to their regular-season-ending three-game series in Anaheim against the Angels.

"This is where we want to be," Washington said. "You want to try and win every series. We lost today, but we had a chance to win it, just like they did. I'm very happy with the way we're playing. We just have to go home and get going again." Comments