BAL@TOR: Machado smashes a solo home run to deep left

ST. PETERSBURG -- Manny Machado batted leadoff Friday night as Orioles manager Buck Showalter shook up his lineup for the opening game of this critical four-game showdown against the Rays and their ace left-hander David Price. The last time Machado hit first he was a senior in high school.

"Just another day in baseball," said Machado, who normally bats second. "It's going to be fun."

Adam Jones, usually the Orioles' cleanup hitter, batted second.

"It's Showalter being Showalter," Jones said by way of explanation. "I'm hitting No. 2 today. That's cool."

Danny Valencia, who has hit everywhere from fifth to ninth since joining the O's and has been swinging a hot bat of late (.444 in his last 18 games, with eight doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs), batted cleanup for the first time.

"It's just nice to be in the lineup in general," he said. "I'll approach it the same way I would hitting anywhere else in the lineup. It's a good lineup."

"Every once in a while you need a little blank in the giddy-up," explained Showalter when asked about the unusual lineup.

"I know our guys are all talking about it," Showalter said. "But we've got the same people playing. I'm trying to take advantage of our skills."

"I'm sure [Showalter] has his reasons," said Jones. "I'm not going to ask his reasons. Nobody is going to change nothing. Everybody keeps the same approach."

"Why would I change now?" asked Machado, who leads the league with 51 doubles, second most in Major League history by a player 20 years of age or younger. "I've done the same thing for 152 games.

"Buck always has his way. He does things for a reason. He doesn't just go out and do things. He always has his reasons."

Asked if he planned to employ the same batting order on Saturday, Showalter said, "We'll see where it is tomorrow."

Baltimore entered Friday two games back of the Rays and Rangers in the American League Wild Card chase.

Gonzalez to start for O's on Saturday vs. Rays

BAL@TOR: Gonzalez pitches 5 1/3 strong before exiting

ST. PETERSBURG -- Miguel Gonzalez will start Saturday's game for the Orioles against the Rays.

Manager Buck Showalter waited until two hours before Friday night's game to make his decision.

"He's done well in this venue," Showalter said, in explaining his decision to start Gonzalez.

"I don't feel any pain,"said Gonzalez, who left his start last Sunday in the sixth inning with a right groin strain. Gonzalez threw a bullpen session on Thursday and worked out again before Friday's game.

"I'm ready to go when they tell me," Gonzalez said. "I want to be on the mound anytime I can. That's what we're here for."

Gonzalez is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in his career against the Rays, and 2-0 with a 0.92 ERA in three starts at Tropicana Field.

The Orioles originally planned to have Bud Norris available to pitch in relief on Saturday if Gonzalez ran into trouble, but Norris was called on for 2 1/3 innings during Friday night's 18-inning loss against the Rays.

Scott Feldman is scheduled to start Sunday against the Rays, and Wei-Yin Chen is due to pitch Monday.

Showalter reiterated Friday that one Orioles starter might have to leave the team this weekend because of a family illness.

Worth noting

• Showalter believes Machado should win the Gold Glove Award at third base this year.

"If he doesn't get it, we'll give him one," the manager said.

• The second Wild Card has added to the pressure and the uncertainty as the regular season nears its final week.

"I'd rather be in these shoes with 10 games to go than on the outside looking in," Showalter said.

• Pitching coach Rick Adair's father has passed away. Adair has been on personal leave since Aug. 15.

• Rays manager Joe Maddon still has a special spot in his heart for the O's Dan Johnson. Maddon will never forget the two clutch homers Johnson delivered for Tampa Bay, first in 2008 in Boston, then in game 162 in 2011.

"DJ is not afraid of the situation, Maddon said.