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TEX@TB: Holland fans 11 over six innings of work

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rangers' run of luck finally ran out on Friday night.

After picking up a pair of one-run wins, Texas was foiled, 3-1, in 11 innings on Ben Zobrist's two-run walk-off homer off reliever Mark Lowe in the series opener at Tropicana Field.

The Rangers -- who defeated the Royals in 10 innings on Thursday -- dropped to 7-4 in extra-inning games this season. With the loss, Texas' lead in the American League West shrunk to to 4 1/2 after Oakland's 6-1 win over Seattle.

"It was a pitchers' duel out there all night," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "They got the last blow."

Washington said after the game that relievers Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando, two of the better arms in the Rangers' bullpen, were both unavailable because of their recent workloads. Washington maintained that whoever goes out to the mound needs to get the job done.

"For the record, Mark Lowe's gotta come in and get outs too," Washington said. "Every pitcher we've got on this team's got to come in and get outs. Don't just think because one guy's not available that it's a reason. It's not a reason."

Texas starter Derek Holland pitched masterfully, but didn't factor into the decision -- thanks to little run support as every hitter in the lineup struck out at least once. The Rangers had picked up wins in each of the left-hander's previous five starts.

"I'm pretty pleased but at the same time, I'm pretty upset," Holland said. "A win is what we really want. We battled the whole game, they ended up just getting us in that last inning."

Holland's only blemish was a home run allowed to Evan Longoria in the fourth inning. He gave up just one other hit and two walks, along with a career-high 11 strikeouts.

Still, the start was encouraging for Holland, who had perhaps his best start statistically all season. He feels like he's found a groove recently, and having won three of the last four starts -- allowing three or fewer earned runs in each -- it appears he has.

"This is probably my best start after the injury," Holland said about left shoulder fatigue that kept him out most of June. "I felt like I turned the corner a while ago. I felt like I've been pretty consistent. Sometimes the numbers don't say that I have been, but overall I think I've kinda made myself a little more consistent and established myself a little bit better than it was before."

Washington has seen the improvement in Holland too, and added that while he has better command of all of his pitches, the fastball has been the key.

"The fastball is the one pitch you have to be able to do more with," Washington said. "He was able to move it down and away, he was able to go up, he was able to go in. He just did a good job of pitching off the fastball, and he did that tonight."

Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson threw six solid innings, allowing just a homer to Michael Young, along with three other hits and one walk to go with five punchouts.

"For the most part, I kept the ball down and mixed it up," Hellickson said. "Obviously, they have a good ineup and you have to make your pitches. You just have to keep the ball down and make them string some hits together. Fortunately, they just got the one tonight."

After not allowing a hit through the first 3 2/3 innings, Holland was finally touched when Longoria took him deep for the game's first run.

"It's just one of those pitches there ... probably could've been a better spot for it than going in," Holland said about the four-seam fastball that went over the fence. "You tip your hat to him. He's a great hitter. It was a good pitch, and he turned on it."

Young evened things in the fifth with his blast to left field.

Texas had a chance to start a run in the ninth against Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney with the top of the order due up.

After an Ian Kinsler strikeout, Elvis Andrus hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Ryan Roberts, but was called out on a close play by first-base umpire Mike Estabrook, prompting Washington to come out of the dugout and argue the call.

The Rays put together a threat in the bottom of the 10th, hitting a pair of singles that brought Elliot Johnson to the plate with one out. He fell behind quickly and struck out. Desmond Jennings then flied to center to end the frame.

After a leadoff walk by B.J. Upton, Zobrist cranked his 16th homer of the season to right for the game winner.

"[Rays manager Joe Maddon] said that if B.J. got on base, do not bunt," Zobrist said. "He said to swing away. ... I just had to be ready for the fastball if he threw it in a place I could hit it. I am just thankful that I was able to get enough of it to get out."

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