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Hamilton launches his ninth homer of 2012

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers obviously hadn't had many bad days in building baseball's best record going into Friday night.

Well, they had one.

Starter Matt Harrison couldn't keep his sinking fastball down, and the Rangers had a few mental breakdowns on the basepaths in an 8-4 loss to Tampa Bay before another sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The Rangers (15-5) almost pulled off a stunning comeback in the bottom of the eighth. Elvis Andrus battled Rays reliever Wade Davis for 11 pitches with two outs, just missing a game-tying grand slam down the right-field line before getting out on a line drive to center field that was run down by B.J. Upton to end the inning.

"At the last minute, it went on the other side of the pole," Andrus said. "That's not what you want as a hitter. It's happened to me twice already, the game in Detroit when I squared it up. I haven't gotten the extra luck as a hitter."

Still, this night was about some of the little things the Rangers didn't do. It started in the top of the first, when Desmond Jennings led off with a single and second baseman Ian Kinsler booted Carlos Pena's ground ball. Harrison then left a changeup in the zone for Evan Longoria, who used the wind to his advantage to give the Rays a 3-0 lead with a home run to center field.

The Rays kept hammering away at Harrison, who came into the game 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA. He allowed 14 hits, tying Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd (1991) and Bobby Witt (1996) for most in a game by a Rangers pitcher. Harrison ended the night with a 3.38 ERA.

"It just seemed like tonight that they had my number," Harrison said. "And some of the hitters, every fastball I threw they were right on top of it. I'll have to go back tomorrow and watch the video and make adjustments."

The Rays had two more hits in the top of the first -- including a run-scoring single by Upton for a 4-0 lead -- as the first six Tampa Bay batters reached base.

The Rangers had a chance for a big response in the bottom of the first, as Kinsler doubled and Andrus singled to start the inning. But Andrus got picked off on a nice move by Rays starter James Shields, and the Rangers only scored on Josh Hamilton's RBI groundout, even though Adrian Beltre and Michael Young followed with singles.

That set the tone for a frustrating night, and things got worse for Harrison in the fourth. He allowed three doubles, including a pair with two outs by Longoria and Ben Zobrist that gave the Rays a 7-1 lead. It was a matter of Harrison getting too many pitches up.

"It wasn't the best sinker I had tonight," Harrison said. "It kind of stayed straight. My pitches were up tonight. I wasn't happy tonight. It was like they knew what I was throwing."

The Rangers did try to fight back. Hamilton hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the fifth to cut the Rays' lead to 7-3. Hamilton has nine home runs in 20 games -- the only other Rangers player to accomplish that feat was Pete Incaviglia in 1987.

Trailing, 8-3, in the sixth inning, David Murphy added his second home run of the season, a solo shot to right field. And the Rangers had a double by Mitch Moreland and a single by Kinsler to give Andrus, who had already collected three hits in his first three at-bats, a chance. But Andrus grounded out to the pitcher to end that threat.

The Rangers had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases on singles by Nelson Cruz and Murphy and a dropped popup by third baseman Longoria in shallow left field. But with one out, Cruz was out at home plate trying to score on a wild pitch by Davis.

"Maybe he hesitated in a situation where if he hesitated, he should have shut it down," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Kinsler walked again to load the bases, setting up Andrus' dramatic at-bat with the hot-hitting Hamilton on deck. Andrus worked the count to 3-0 and then took two strikes before fouling off five straight fastballs, the last that he tried to lean with his body back fair for the grand slam.

"Off the bat, I thought it was gone," Davis said.

Added Rays catcher Chris Gimenez: "It was really close. I was doing the Carlton Fisk on the other side doing this thing. The way the wind was blowing there, anything could have happened."

Andrus ripped the 11th pitch from Davis into the right-center-field gap, but the ball held up for Upton after it looked for a moment like it might get down.

The Rangers did draw their fourth consecutive sellout crowd (47,496), tying a record set in July 1994. The Rangers have drawn 190,757 fans in their past four games, which included a three-game set with the Yankees.

And the fans were treated to a pretty interesting game between teams that have met in the American League Division Series the last two postseasons, with the Rangers winning both.

"That's the most intense 8-4 game you're going to find in April of any year," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Great ballgame. Both teams wanted to win. ... They keep grinding out at-bats, we keep grinding out at-bats. It was a wonderful game. Of course, when you win it, it's even more wonderful, but from both sides, well played." Comments