David Price became the first 20-game winner in Tampa Bay history as the Rays continued their late run at a playoff spot with a 6-2 victory over the fading Chicago White Sox Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.
The win was the surging Rays' 10th in 11 outings and kept them within three games of Oakland for the final wild card spot in the American League with three left in the regular season.
Chicago, on the other hand, has now lost 10 of its last 12 contests and was dealt another blow to its chances of capturing the AL Central title. With first-place Detroit defeating Minnesota, the White Sox are now three games behind the Tigers heading into a season-ending series at Cleveland.
"We just haven't had it," White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "It's a team effort. There's not one person to blame. Collectively, we didn't play as well as we could have."
Price (20-5) held the White Sox to two runs and five hits while striking out four over the first seven innings to join the Angels' Jered Weaver as the lone 20-game winners in the American League this season. The Cy Young Award candidate also tops the AL with a 2.56 earned run average and improved to 12-1 over his last 18 starts.
"I thought [Price should win the award] even before the game began," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Of course, he had to pitch well and he did. That's 20 (wins), and he's done it in a very consistent manner. He's pretty much been the same guy every time out."
B.J. Upton supplied the offense for Tampa Bay, which will conclude the regular season with a critical three-game set against AL East co-leader Baltimore, by belting two home runs and finishing 3-for-5 with three RBI. Ryan Roberts added a solo homer to the win while Evan Longoria had a pair of hits, including an RBI double, for Tampa Bay.
Alex Rios had a run-scoring single for Chicago in defeat. White Sox starter Jose Quintana (6-6) lasted just four-plus innings and was tagged for four runs on six hits while walking three.
The Rays wasted no time staking Price to an early lead. Desmond Jennings laced Quintana's sixth pitch of the day into the gap in left center for a triple, and Upton followed with his 27th home run of the season to give Tampa Bay a quick 2-0 advantage.
"I think we all had [Price] in mind," Upton said. "We knew what he was going for. Good to get off to a fast start."
Quintana would settle down and retired 9-of-11 hitters -- including six straight -- at one point before serving up Roberts' solo homer that put the Rays up by three runs in the top of the fourth.
The White Sox would close the gap in the home half, as Youkilis and Paul Konerko singled off Price before Rios shot a ground ball through the right side to bring home the club's first run. Konerko would later cross the plate on Dayan Viciedo's sacrifice fly to pull Chicago within 3-2.
Tampa Bay answered with a pair of runs off Nate Jones in the fifth. Upton led off with a double and Ben Zobrist drew a walk before Longoria delivered a two- bagger that extended the margin to 4-2. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Ben Francisco later plated Zobrist and put the Rays back up by three runs.
Price would take over from there, yielding only a pair of walks over the final three innings of his stint, and the Rays got an insurance run in the ninth on Upton's second homer of the day.
Upton finished the month with 12 home runs, the second-most in September in team history. Carlos Pena had 13 in 2007 ... White Sox center fielder Alejandro De Aza missed his second straight game due to flu-like symptoms ... Chicago, which won four of its seven matchups with Tampa Bay this season, closed out the year with a 45-36 home record ... Tampa went 44-37 on the road this season.