Much to their delight, the Rays are challenging the baseball maxim that you can never have too much pitching.

Tampa Bay's impressive starting staff at the major-league level is backed by some of baseball's top minor-league prospects, providing the organization with a strong comfort level moving forward.

"I'm very proud of what our starters have accomplished this season," said pitching coach Jim Hickey. "There's a good, positive rivalry between them that drives all of them to be their best. James Shields strikes out 13 guys one day and then David Price gets 14, so he gets to stand on the top step for awhile. They each support one another so well. There are other places, and I've been to a few myself, where that's not always the case."

At 29, Shields is the old man of the group, followed by 28-year-old Jeff Niemann. Price and Wade Davis are 26, while 24-year-old Jeremy Hellickson is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate.

Tampa Bay's 3.59 team ERA ranks sixth among the 30 major-league clubs, and opposing batters are hitting only .235 against the Rays, ranking second in the majors to San Francisco.

"They've done a tremendous job of drafting and developing pitchers," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "I have a lot of respect for that organization and the way they go about their business. Believe me, everyone in the game of baseball knows about Tampa Bay's pitching."