ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rangers have the best record in the American League, but it's not because they are beating up on weak teams.
Those are the teams that give Texas the most problems, and that continued on Sunday afternoon with an 8-4 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. Designated hitter Logan Forsythe delivered the big blow for Tampa Bay with a three-run home run off of Martin Perez in a five-run fourth inning. Steven Souza Jr. added a two-run homer in the eighth.
With the win, the Rays took two of three from the Rangers this weekend. They've won six of their past seven games and outscored opponents 55-18 over that span. Texas is 9-14 this season against Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Los Angeles, the three last-place teams in the AL.
"That's one of those stats that leads to scratching of the head, but has no merit," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "It's not that we don't play hard, let down or [we're] not focused. That's not the case. You want to win every possible game. We've lost two in a row before. There's no panic."
Rays starter Drew Smyly earned his third straight win despite allowing four runs in 6 2/3 innings. He gave up five hits, including home runs to Delino DeShields and Drew Stubbs, walked one and struck out seven.
"I'm just trying to go out there and compete," Smyly said. "Try and stay out of the heart of the plate. I feel like I'm good for a home run every game. But besides that, I feel like I've been keeping runners off the base."
Perez continues to have his problems on the road, as he took the loss by allowing six runs in six innings. He is now 1-8 with a 6.23 ERA in 13 starts away from Arlington, including 0-5 with a 9.42 ERA in his past five outings. Five of his last seven starts of the season should be at home.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Ex-squeeze me:Bobby Wilson enacted some revenge on his old team to give the Rays a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning. With runners at the corners and one out, Wilson laid down a perfectly placed squeeze bunt. First baseman Ryan Rua tried to get a sliding Souza at home, but he was just late on the throw. Wilson was designated for assignment by the Rangers on Aug. 1.
"It's a call from the bench, but it's all basically a guy executing," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "If he doesn't execute it -- look at their defense on it, they did everything right on it. But Bobby laid down a perfect bunt on it. It was all him."
DeShields' big day: DeShields, batting leadoff against the left-handed Smyly, hit his fourth home run of the season in the third inning. He also stood out on defense in the bottom of the frame with two on and two outs. Brad Miller lifted a fly to shallow left, and DeShields used his speed to race in and make a terrific sliding catch.
"I felt it was a productive day," DeShields said. "Everytime I get plugged in, I try to do something to help, and I felt I did that."
Like Mikie: Mike Mahtook might be struggling mightily at the plate -- he has no hits in his past 29 at-bats. But he saved a run, and possibly the game with his glove in left field. With Adrian Beltre up as the tying run in the eighth and Ian Desmond on second base, Mahtook made a jumping catch on a line drive in the left-center-field gap to preserve the 6-4 lead.
"Mikie made a tremendous play," Cash said.
Mazara can't deliver: The Rangers staged a two-out rally in the seventh as walks to Rua and Robinson Chirinos, followed by a single from pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland off left-hander Xavier Cedeno, made it 6-4. Cash then brought in right-hander Brad Boxberger to face DeShields, but Banister countered with left-handed-hitting Nomar Mazara. Boxberger has a reputation for being tough on left-handers, and he struck out Mazara to end the inning.
"It was a case today to not be able to get the big hit and get us back to where we would be a threat," Banister said.
"We're not thinking about record right now. I think we're trying to realize where this team's at and where we might be at the start of Spring Training next year." -- Forsythe, on what the team is playing for, despite a 52-70 record
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Rays had lost six straight series against first-place teams before taking two of three against Texas. In those series, Tampa Bay had been swept five times.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: The Rangers make their first trip to Cincinnati since 2007 when they open a two-game series with the Reds at 6:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park. Derek Holland is scheduled to come off the disabled list and make his first start since June 20.
Rays:Blake Snell (4-5, 3.06 ERA) will look to pitch deep into a game for the first time in five starts when he faces the Red Sox at 7:10 p.m. ET on Monday at Tropicana Field. Snell hasn't pitched at least six innings since July 24, his second appearance after the All-Star break. It'll be a tough test facing the AL's best offense.