If the White Sox sweep all three games against the Indians at Progressive Field, beginning Monday night, and the Tigers lose all three games in Kansas City, then a one-game AL Central tiebreaker would take place on Thursday at Comerica Park, with Chris Sale and Justin Verlander facing off.
Any White Sox loss or any Tigers victory, and it's wait until next year for Robin Ventura's crew.
"Obviously, we are up against it now. We'll continue to fight," White Sox captain Paul Konerko said. "That's what we do, and that's what we've done all year.
"It doesn't look good, but we've been doing it for a while now. So just keep doing it and you never know what's going to happen. The main thing is to get us in order and go out and win a ballgame tomorrow."
Regardless of Detroit's late-inning comeback and playoff-style win, the White Sox aren't playing anything close to postseason-caliber baseball. Sunday's setback was the White Sox 10th loss in their past 12 games and left them with a 2-5 record on this final homestand and a 45-36 record at U.S. Cellular overall.
Picking out one problem during this stretch is tough to do. It's about less-than-quality starts, with the White Sox rotation posting a 5.88 ERA over the homestand. It's about a lack of clutch hitting or any sort of hitting overall, with a .221 team average over the past 13 games.
Big issues or little problems, they all have added up to this White Sox late-season fade.
"You'd like to get a hit with guys on," Ventura said. "The big hit hasn't really been there. The games we won, they do. When we do score, you kind of let them back in the game. There's a lot of things that go into a stretch like this."
"We just haven't had it," White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "It's part of the game. ... It's a team effort. There's not one person to blame. Collectively, we didn't play as well as we could have."
David Price (20-5) joined Angels ace Jered Weaver as the only 20-game winners in the AL while also becoming the first 20-game winner in the history of the Rays (88-71) via his strong seven-inning effort. He allowed two runs on five hits, walking two and striking out four.
Both of the White Sox runs scored in the fourth, with Alex Rios' single producing his 90th RBI and Dayan Viciedo bringing home a run with a sacrifice fly. That bases-loaded long drive for Viciedo represented the White Sox last viable scoring chance.
"Price is a good pitcher, but we had some opportunities," Youkilis said. "You could tell once that little shadow came in, both teams struggled a lot. It was tough, a tough loss."
That one-inning White Sox output was not enough to combat the offense against White Sox rookie Jose Quintana (6-6), who yielded four runs on six hits in four-plus innings.
Quintana gave up two runs before the fans were really settled in their seats. Desmond Jennings opened the game with a triple to left-center, and one out later, B.J. Upton followed with a long home run to left on a 0-1 pitch. The Rays added one in the fourth on Ryan Roberts' homer and knocked out Quintana in the fifth with two more runs, although one was charged to rookie reliever Nate Jones.
Having Price's personal milestone and their slim playoff hopes firmly in mind, the Rays knew the importance of grabbing an early advantage.
"Absolutely. I think we all had it in mind," Upton said. "We knew what he was going for. Good to get off to a fast start."
This series finale also could have marked the last home game in a White Sox uniform for key contributors such as Jake Peavy, Brett Myers, Gavin Floyd and Youkilis, along with organization staple A.J. Pierzynski, who joins Konerko as the only members from the 2005 World Series championship team. Pierzynski struck out in his final at-bat against Rays closer Fernando Rodney and received a nice ovation from the crowd.
After leading the AL Central for 117 days, the White Sox will face down elimination Monday night in Cleveland. The season has not quite yet sputtered to a close, but with the way the White Sox are playing right now, it's all but official barring a final-week miracle.
"On a scale of 1-10? It's obviously a 12," said Adam Dunn, when asked to rate the disappointment of his team's finish, marked by a 2-8 record over their past 10 series of three games or more. "We played so well for so long and had ourselves in a great position.
"One of the things that go us here was doing the little things, hitting guys in, things like that. But when it came down to it late in the year, we couldn't do it."