Another game means another hero for the Baltimore Orioles as they beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 last night in walk-off fashion on a Nate McLouth single to deep right field. With this win the Orioles have moved to 18 games over .500 (80-62) for the first time since the end of the 1997 season and remain tied atop the division with the New York Yankees.
Even though McLouth was the hero of the night by driving in the game-winning run, it was converted shortstop Manny Machado who was getting all of the attention on ESPN and Baseball Tonight.
Machado made a brilliant defensive play in the top of the ninth when pinch-runner Rich Thompson was on second base with two outs when Evan Longoria slapped a pitch from Jim Johnson down the third base line. Machado snagged the ball and faked a throw to first, after realizing he didn’t have a good shot to get Longoria, and with Thompson rounding third base Machado turned around and flipped the ball to J.J. Hardy, who was aware enough of the play to cover third base.
This began a rundown that Thompson and the Rays just would not win and the inning ended with Thompson being tagged out by catcher Matt Wieters.
“I was trying to get Evan out to be honest, but then when I came up I saw I had no chance,” Machado said. “So I did a pump-fake and tried to deke the runner. It was just natural. I just came out and didn’t think about it.”
It was just a good night all-around for Machado as he made the defensive play of the night and also came across the plate in the bottom of the ninth as the winning run off of McLouth’s single. What’s amazing about Machado though is the fact that he made one of the most heads up plays at third base – a play that you would expect to see from a 10-year veteran and not some 20-year old rookie who has barely been in the big leagues for a month.
If Machado is feeling any pressure about being called up to the big leagues, switching to a new position, and playing in a pennant race he sure isn’t showing it. This kid is hitting in the clutch and playing third base as if he’s been there for his entire career – if his career has been going on for 10 plus years that is. That’s how good he has been in his short time with the Orioles this season and it’s hard to imagine him not continuing to get better as the season begins to wrap up and the playoffs begin.
The Orioles have now beaten the Rays four games in a row, dating back to their August 4 meeting, and a win against them today would give the Orioles their first sweep of the Rays since opening day last season.