As a result, the American League East will become a two-team race over the next two months.
Baltimore's hot streak following the All-Star break kept Tampa Bay at a distance, as the Rays couldn't gain more than 1.5 games on the Orioles despite an 11-2 record to start the second half of the season.
Tampa Bay currently sits eight games out of first place.
Without Price pitching every fifth day the rest of the way, the Rays' 8.7 percent chance of making the playoffs will only decrease.
Toronto is just 2.5 games behind Baltimore. The Blue Jays have recovered from a lapse before the break to win 10 of 13 without Edwin Encarnacion, who is still working his way back from a quad injury.
Neither Baltimore nor Toronto has a formidable starting rotation. Both rank among MLB's worst. At least Baltimore improved a solid bullpen—FanGraphs indicates it ranks 10th in ERA, 20th in fielding independent pitching (FIP) and 12th in expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP)—by acquiring Andrew Miller from Boston, as reported by ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
|Baltimore and Toronto's Starting Pitching Numbers|
|Team||ERA||MLB Rank||FIP||MLB Rank||xFIP||MLB Rank|
However, Toronto and Baltimore's offenses have the sustainable firepower to thwart challengers like the New York Yankees and Price-less Rays as the regular season winds down.
Baltimore ranks second in the majors in home runs with 129. Only Toronto, at 130, ranks ahead of the Orioles. The Blue Jays' .335 weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the second-highest mark in baseball, and they rank third in OPS (.760) while the Orioles are seventh (.726).
The offenses have helped both teams attain favorable postseason outlooks. ESPN.com suggests Baltimore and Toronto have a 70.5 and 56.3 percent chance, respectively, of making the playoffs.
Though the Yankees' pitching staff has absorbed the losses of 80 percent of the Opening Day rotation, the odds are against Brandon McCarthy and Shane Greene maintaining their performance level. Hiroki Kuroda broke down at this time last year, and David Phelps is David Phelps.
The offense has been dormant all year long, and the Texas series reminded the division just how impotent the Yankees could be—the Bronx Bombers mustered just two runs off Colby Lewis on Wednesday.
As for Tampa Bay, the starting rotation has outperformed the offense, which has produced just 421 runs (19th in MLB). Rays starters have combined for a 3.60 ERA (ninth in MLB) but a 3.50 FIP (fourth) and 3.56 xFIP (fifth).
Losing Price—3.11 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 2.73 xFIP—obviously reduces those numbers.
Even though Tampa Bay has four solid starters left in the rotation, none are as dominant as the southpaw. The offense simply doesn't have the pieces to clean up a starter's mess, and that will keep the club out of the race.
As Baltimore and Toronto separate themselves from the rest of the division, baseball fans will be treated to a passel of meaningless games as the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox battle for third place.
Advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.