BALTIMORE — As the regular season winds to a close, John Gibbons must make choices that no Toronto Blue Jays manager has faced over the past two decades.
Although the Blue Jays are still dueling with Kansas City for the best record in the AL — a distinction that provides home-field advantage through the postseason — Gibbons has to balance that objective with the need to keep his players fresh.
After Toronto clinched the division crown in the opener of a doubleheader Wednesday, Gibbons fielded a starting unit consisting entirely of reserves in the nightcap. He posted a similar lineup Thursday, in part because the Blue Jays had celebrated their division crown with champagne, beer and cigars late into the night.
"We want to win home field," Gibbons said. "We had a doubleheader yesterday, and we've been going at it hard all year. It made perfect sense not to play (in the) doubleheader after you clinch. Then, coming back and playing an early game today would be like no day off at all for them.
"My job is to take care of these guys. Yes, we'd love to win it but I've got to do what's best for these guys — not what some bozo out there in fantasy land thinks."
The Blue Jays started the day with 92 wins, one more than Kansas City.
Blue Jays ace David Price was scratched from his scheduled start. Slugging stars Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion also sat out.
"These guys have, most of them play every single day," Price said. "When you get to this point in the season ... if you can give those guys a day off or a couple days off, it goes a long ways."
Price won't pitch again until the postseason. He will throw live batting practice while the team finishes its season with three games in Tampa Bay, beginning Friday.
"I'm fine with it," the left-hander said. "We have a plan, and we know what we're going to do."
Manny Machado homered twice for the Orioles, who took a 3-0 lead in the first inning against Drew Hutchison (13-5) before a delay of 3 hours, 25 minutes.
The game was originally slated to start at 7:05 p.m. but was moved up to 12:05 because of the threat of rain at night. As it turned out, the rain started early in the day and didn't let up until around 4 o'clock.
Attendance was announced at 18,257, but that was tickets sold. At the outset, there was only a smattering of fans, mostly because of the dismal weather, the switch of the starting time and the Orioles' late-season fade.
After the lengthy delay, only a few hundred remained.
It became apparent early that the Blue Jays were going to experience a figurative hangover from their big day. Hutchison gave up a one-out single in the first inning and Machado followed with a home run to center.
Chris Davis and Steve Pearce then sandwiched doubles around a hit batter for a 3-0 lead.
Not long after that, the game was halted. Neither starting pitcher returned.
T.J. McFarland (1-2) took over for Tyler Wright and pitched four innings to earn his first win since July 27, 2014.
Zach Britton worked the ninth for his 35th save.
It was 5-1 before Machado hit a solo shot in the sixth off Chad Jenkins. Machado also stole two bases, giving him 33 homers and 20 steals and making him the seventh 20/20 player in Orioles history. He is only their second 30/20 player (Brady Anderson in 1996).
"It's something Manny should be very proud of, and we're proud of him," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You can see why so few people have been able to do it."
Ezequiel Carrera drove in two runs and Dalton Pompey had three hits for the Blue Jays, who won the season series 11-8.
Blue Jays: SS Troy Tulowitzki (shoulder, back) could return Friday night "or definitely Saturday," Gibbons said.
Orioles: 2B Jonathan Schoop bruised his right hand after being struck by a pitch from Hutchison.
Blue Jays: Toronto needs to win two of three in Tampa Bay to finish with a winning record on the road.
Orioles: The Orioles finish the season with a three-game series at home against the Yankees beginning Friday night, although Hurricane Joaquin could shuffle that schedule.