What's new: 3B Manny Machado, who hurt his left knee at the Trop in September, is back off the DL and a key to the Orioles lineup. Late offseason addition OF/DH Nelson Cruz has been a big help, especially with 1B Chris Davis on the DL with an oblique strain. RF Nick Markakis and C Matt Wieters have been hot as well, as the O's lead the majors with a .287 road average. With Gold Glovers in Machado and SS J.J. Hardy (who beat out Rays Evan Longoria and Yunel Escobar), the Orioles have been good again defensively, also leading the AL in outfield assists. Tommy Hunter has taken over the closer's role in what is a solid bullpen.
Key stat: The O's had 14 of their first 29 games decided by one (6-3) or two (2-3) runs.
Connections: O's RHP Ryan Webb is a Clearwater product, OF Delmon Young a two-time former Ray, RHP Evan Meek a Rays minor-leaguer. Rays LHP Erik Bedard is a former Oriole.
Series history: O's lead 2-0 this season, Rays lead 141-138 overall, 76-64 at Trop.
Marc Topkin, Times staff writer