CHICAGO — Their clubhouse strewn with boxes, their season on the brink of ending after a 10th loss in 12 games, the Chicago White Sox headed out Sunday on their final trip.
They had hoped the three games in Cleveland would be a time for celebration instead of reflection.
Now they need a lot of help and a three-game winning streak.
"Obviously we're up against it now, but we'll continue to play," Chicago's Paul Konerko said after a 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday dropped them three games behind Detroit in the AL Central with three to play.
"That's what we do and what we've done all year. It doesn't look good obviously. ... You never know what can happen," Konerko added. "The main thing is to get us in order and go win a ball game tomorrow."
The White Sox held at least a share of the division lead from July 24 until Wednesday and had not been this far back since late May. Their starting pitching has come up short but mainly their downfall has stemmed from an inability to get the big hit with runners on base. They have hit .153 (13 for 85) with runners in scoring position during the dozen-game slide.
"We didn't play good enough. The effort was there, the work was there, everything was there. We just didn't get it done," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said of the late-season fade.
Chicago's hope: win three straight in Cleveland and root for the Royals to sweep the Tigers in Kansas City, forcing a one-game tiebreaker on Thursday. Detroit beat Minnesota on Sunday 2-1 to go up three games.
"When we pitch, we haven't hit. When we hit, we haven't pitched," Chicago third baseman Kevin Youkilis said. " It's how baseball works sometimes. We just haven't had it. ... It's an unfortunate situation."
Tampa Bay has won 10 of 11 and was three games behind Oakland entering play Sunday. The Rays go home to play Baltimore, hoping for a repeat of last season, when they earned a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season.
"It's always about maintaining a slight mathematical chance. We were in the same boat last year. It could become a little bit better with some cooperation, but either way we just have to go home and play our game," manager Joe Maddon said.
David Price (20-5) became Tampa Bay's first 20-game winner, allowing two runs and five hits in seven innings. He became the fourth 20-game winner of the season, joining Washington's Gio Gonzalez (21-8), the New York Mets' R.A. Dickey (20-6) and the Los Angeles Angels' Jered Weaver (20-4).
"We still have a chance to get in with a good series against Baltimore. ... We need a little help from Texas, but we have to continue to win and hopefully we get back in like last year," Price said.
B.J. Upton his hit his 27th and 28th homers, and Tampa Bay also got a solo shot from Ryan Roberts.
"You know you pretty much have to win them all," Upton said, sizing up the Rays' chances.
Chicago starter Jose Quintana (6-6) got in trouble before the game was barely three minutes old, giving up a leadoff triple to Desmond Jennings and Upton's two-run homer.
Roberts hit a two-out homer in the fourth made it 3-0. The White Sox rallied in the bottom half when Alex Rios delivered an RBI single and Dayan Viciedo hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly.
"We had our chance obviously with the bases loaded there and one out. Viciedo hit the ball real hard and we were hoping it would get over his head and might score three, but it didn't," Pierzynski said.
"We fell behind early again, it seems to be a common theme here. We tried to fight back, just not enough."
Upton's leadoff double in the fifth finished Quintana, who allowed four runs and six hits in four innings. Evan Longoria hit an RBI double and Ben Francisco added a sacrifice fly off reliever Nate Jones to make it 5-2. Upton homered again in the ninth against Addison Reed.
NOTES:.White Sox Pierzynski had his family at the game. He is eligible for free agency and this might have been his final home game in Chicago. Pierzynski, who came to Chicago in 2005, said he'd love to finish his career with the White Sox but understands that might not happen. He's had a career-best 27 homers. ... Rays C Jose Molina (right quadriceps strain) was out of starting lineup for fifth straight game but caught the bottom of the ninth.
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