CHICAGO -- David Price earned his American League-high-tying 20th win, and the Rays kept their postseason hopes alive with a 6-2 win over the White Sox on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field.
With the win, the Rays remained three games back of the Athletics, who beat the Mariners, 5-2. With three games left, Tampa Bay, which has an elimination number of one, will need help to get into the postseason.
Price became the first 20-game winner in franchise history, going seven innings and striking out four. At 27, he is the youngest American League pitcher to win 20 since Johan Santana did so for the Twins in 2004.
"It feels good, it does," Price said. "Without my teammates, what they've done for me all year, every five days, it's been very special. So thanks to all these guys, the coaches and the training staff, it was fun."
Price is 12-1 with a 2.26 ERA, 127 strikeouts and just 29 walks over his past 18 starts. He has worked seven or more innings in 22 of his past 26 starts, and he has allowed two runs or fewer in 23 of his 31 outings. In short, the Rays southpaw has done a nice job of stating his case for the AL Cy Young Award.
"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, and he's done it in a very consistent manner. He's pretty much been the same guy every time out."
Price allowed that he felt like he had experienced a Cy Young season, and that reaching 20 wins "couldn't have hurt" his chances for winning the award.
"So I guess it helped," Price said.
But would he vote for himself? Price smiled.
"I would vote for myself, yes," Price said.
Price's teammates did all they could to ease the strain on their ace on Sunday as their bats got busy early.
Desmond Jennings tripled off White Sox starter Jose Quintana to start the game, and one out later, B.J. Upton followed with his 27th home run of the season.
"I think we all had [helping Price] in mind," Upton said. "We knew what he was going for. Good to get off to a fast start."
Price clearly appreciated the early runs.
"When you can get those runs in the first inning, it doesn't matter if they're one or five," Price said. "You feel a lot better on that mound knowing that you have a little bit of room to work with. With him hitting a two-run home run, it was very big."
Ryan Roberts chipped in with his fifth AL home run of the season, a 410-foot shot into center field with two outs in the fourth to push the Rays' lead to 3-0.
Alex Rios singled home the White Sox first run in the fourth, and Dayan Viciedo added a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 3-2.
But the Rays answered in the top of the fifth. Evan Longoria doubled home one, and Ben Francisco's sacrifice fly scored another to make it 5-2 Rays.
Upton then went deep off closer Addison Reed in the ninth for his 28th blast of the season. Upton now has 10 home runs in his past 20 games, moving him closer to the 30-30 club, which is a pretty special accomplishment.
"It's hard not to [think about 30-30], but I won't go up there trying to do it, just try to put the bat on the ball and see what happens," said Upton, who has 31 swipes.
Even though Sunday's game did not represent a save opportunity, Fernando Rodney got the final three outs to preserve the win.
The Rays "are a pretty good ballclub over there," Paul Konerko said. "You face David Price, and he's going to win the Cy Young. He's not too bad."
In taking three of four from the White Sox, the Rays have now won 10 of their past 11.
"We still have a chance to get there," Price said. "We have a series against Baltimore starting Monday. And then Oakland's in Texas. So I guess we need a little help in Texas and continue to win. And then hopefully, we can get back in there like we did last year."
Maddon acknowledged that winning 10 out of 11 and not gaining more ground is "a little bit frustrating."
"But I really love the competition, I think it's great," Maddon said. "My hat's off to these others teams for hanging in there as well as they have. I think it's great. I think it's good for baseball. The two Wild Card system really appears to be stirring it up this year. And again, mission accomplished with that."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.