Created: 10/01/2013 12:35 AM
(AP) ARLINGTON, Texas - The Texas Rangers’ season ended in their 163rd game for the second year in a row.
This time, they didn’t even get to the playoffs.
After winning seven games in a row just to force an extra regular-season game, eight was too much for the Rangers, who lost 5-2 to Tampa Bay in the AL wild-card tiebreaker Monday night.
"What goes through my mind? We’re going home," said third baseman Adrian Beltre, who finished with an AL-high 199 hits. "We expected to be in the playoffs. But we didn’t play well enough."
While the Rangers had a last-week surge to extend their regular season, they were done in by a 5-15 start to September after beginning the final month with a two-game lead in the AL West.
"We didn’t get it done. We made a run at the end," manager Ron Washington said. "We just didn’t get it done. I’ve got no excuse for that."
Even with the return of All-Star slugger Nelson Cruz from his 50-game drug suspension, the Rangers missed a chance to get to the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
David Price pitched his fourth complete game of the season and Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer as the Rays advanced to the AL wild-card game with a win over the team that knocked them out of the playoffs in both 2010 and 2011.
The Rangers went to their only World Series in those seasons, then lost to Baltimore in the first one-and-out AL wild-card playoff last October, also at home.
"I’m happy that we don’t have to play them anymore," Longoria said. " It’s fitting we had to go down this road. It feels really good to be able to leave here celebrating instead of with our heads down."
The first four hitters against rookie left-hander Martin Perez (10-6) combined for three singles and a walk, and yet the Rays still didn’t have a run.
Desmond Jennings, in his first start in more than a week after left hamstring tightness, hit the game’s first pitch down the left-field line. He was thrown out trying to stretch the hit to a double when Craig Gentry made a strong throw.
Wil Myers walked on four pitches, then consecutive singles by Ben Zobrist and Longoria loaded the bases and Young hit a sacrifice fly.
Jennings had a leadoff walk in the third, and there were two outs before Longoria hit a drive to right-center that landed in the Rangers bullpen.
After Perez struck out Zobrist to start the sixth, the eighth consecutive batter he retired, Alexi Ogando gave up a double to Longoria, who scored on a double by pinch-hitter David DeJesus.
"Yeah, they jumped on (Perez) n the first inning but he minimized the damage," Washington said. "That was the third time Longoria was coming and he was swinging the bat well and I was trying to nullify him. I thought Ogando could come in and get us that one out there. Instead it didn’t seem like tonight anyone could nullify him."
Cruz, who had 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 108 games before his suspension, was 0 for 4 with a strikeout while hitting sixth as the designated hitter. His groundout to shortstop ended the game.
The Rays had runners at first and second with two outs in the seventh when Delmon Young, who put the Rays ahead to stay with a sacrifice fly in the first, hit a soft flyball.
Center fielder Leonys Martin made a running, diving attempt for a catch. Replays showed clearly that the ball bounced into Martin’s glove; left field umpire Bruce Dreckman, looking at the play from the side, ruled it an inning-ending catch.
The Rays face another must-win situation Wednesday night at Cleveland in the AL wild-card game, Tampa’s third game in three cities in a four-day stretch. The winner faces Boston in the division series.
Price (10-8), the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, had a 10.26 ERA in four previous starts at Rangers Ballpark. He was superb in this one, striking out four and walking one. He picked off two runners while allowing seven hits and throwing 81 of 118 pitches for strikes.
"If I don’t get those two outs on the pickoff moves, I have to get the next guys out," Price said. "It forces me to throw at least 10 more pitches."
Elvis Andrus walked on four pitches in the first, but was picked off by Price. Ian Kinsler had an RBI single in the third, but was caught stealing after straying off the base and drawing a throw.
"That’s the way we play. Sometimes that’s the result of it," Washington said. "If everything would have worked the way we wanted it to work when they decided to steal it would have been nice. ... They made the plays to stop it."
NOTES: Andrus had a stolen base in the sixth, giving the Rangers a steal in a club-record 13 games in a row. ... Tanner Scheppers pitched the ninth for Texas, making his 76th appearance, the most for a right-hander in club history. He also had a throwing error that led to a run.