ST. PETERSBURG -- Talk about a true No. 1 starter. Tampa Bay has one in David Price.
The classy left-hander dominated Baltimore for eight innings Tuesday night before handing the ball over to Rafael Soriano in the ninth to get the final three outs, as the Rays defeated the Orioles, 5-0, to punch their ticket to the 2010 postseason.
"That was definitely the biggest game I've ever pitched, I felt like," said Price, who showed emotion throughout his outing. "I felt like I needed to come out and throw well for our team and throw well for our fans and throw well for the city of St. Pete. That was big for us. We came out and hit the ball well, we played good defense and it was a good game."
A Tropicana Field crowd of 17,891 watched as Tampa Bay (94-63) earned its second postseason berth in three years while also maintaining the best record in baseball. The Yankees also clinched a playoff spot Tuesday night, but the Rays remain a half-game ahead of their American League East rivals while reducing their magic number to clinch the AL East to four games.
Tampa Bay owns the tiebreaker by winning the season series with New York, 10-8. And the Rays still own the AL's best record, so they control their own destiny as far as entering the playoffs with the No. 1 seed.
No. 1 starters get the job done when their team needs them most, which is exactly what Price did Tuesday night, combining nasty stuff with nice command of his fastball to hold the Orioles to no runs and six hits while striking out eight and not issuing a walk to pick up his 19th win of the season.
Price talked about pitching after his "tweet" about the small crowd that attended Monday night's game.
"I really thought that I needed to throw nine," Price said. "That was a nightmare. I knew if I didn't throw well, I was going to be done. That was worse than Game 7 by far. Everything that led up to it was terrible. We want more fans here obviously. We love our fans that come; that's not what I was saying last night, obviously, but that was a nightmare last night."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was impressed by Price's outing.
"That's what the first pick in the country is supposed to look like," said Showalter, referencing the fact that the Rays used the top pick of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft to select Price. "He did a good job of finishing off ... and that's why they'll be playing in October."
Soaked in champagne, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon looked toward the coming days.
"I'm excited in the moment, but immediately I'm already thinking about what happens next," Maddon said. "We still have other goals in mind -- to win the division, best record and we go on from there."
Price took care of the O's offense while his teammates provided him early run support that continued throughout the game.
B.J. Upton's RBI single in the second off Orioles starter Brad Bergesen staked the Rays to a 1-0 lead.
In the third, Carl Crawford scored from first base on Dan Johnson's two-out double into the right-field corner to give the Rays a 2-0 lead. Crawford's run gave him 105 for the season to break his own record, which he set in 2004.
Carlos Pena hit his first home run since Sept. 14 when he connected for a solo shot in the fourth to give him 28 for the season and Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead.
After John Jaso tripled to open the fifth, Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly scored him before Crawford hit his 17th homer of the season to push the lead to 5-0.
The Rays will finish their season with one more game at Tropicana Field against the Orioles to wrap up this year's home slate before heading to Kansas City to play the Royals in a four-game series. The Yankees finish up playing one more against the Blue Jays. They will finish the season with a three-game series at Boston.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.