David Price became the first 20-game winner in Tampa Bay Rays history on Sunday, pitching seven strong innings in a 6-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.
The tall lefty also earned another cool honor with the victory, becoming the 15th member of "The Black Aces" — a group started by Jim "Mudcat" Grant and comprised only of African-American pitchers who have won 20 games in a season. Don Newcombe became the first member on the list with 20 wins for the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers and CC Sabathia was the last member to be admitted with 21 victories for the 2010 New York Yankees.
The rest of the list is obviously strong. In addition to Price, Grant, Newcombe and Sabathia, there's Vida Blue, Al Downing, Bob Gibson, Ferguson Jenkins (even though he's Canadian), Dwight Gooden, Sam Jones, Mike Norris, J.R. Richard, Dave Stewart, Earl Wilson and Dontrelle Willis.
Price's 2012 has been the strongest season of the 27-year-old's career and it has put him right into the middle of the AL Cy Young debate. He's leading the league with a 2.56 ERA and has a 205 strikeouts to his name. Though the Rays' bid for the postseason may come up short, it'll be no fault of Price's. He's 9-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 games since the All-Star break.
From the Associated Press:
Asked who he would vote for if he could cast a ballot for the AL Cy Young, Price wasn't shy. ''I would vote for myself,'' he said.
And [manager Joe] Maddon agreed with his ace lefty. ''The 20 wins, he should have like 25 wins,'' Maddon said. ''He's pitched well enough to have mid-20s based on our lack of scoring runs sometimes. The ERA is highly impressive, pitching in this division, this league, the DH. ... It all matters. To be able to accomplish that here is quite an accomplishment.''
Maddon isn't exaggerating much. There were two no-decisions in August when the Rays dropped 1-0 contests to Kansas City and Baltimore. Three other no-decisions came after Price had gone seven innings allowing three or less runs.
Of course, we all know that wins are a flawed statistic that can often be the product of situation and circumstance. So Maddon can't bemoan the relative injustice that much. It is cool, however, that situation and circumstance worked for Price's benefit 20 times so that he was able to make some history in Chicago on Sunday. Earning your way into a group as small as The Black Aces is a pretty cool accomplishment.
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