Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Manny's hard slide; a run of lefties; Mookie's quiet bat - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Manny’s hard slide; a run of lefties; Mookie’s quiet bat

Friday night’s most controversial play happened in the bottom of the eighth, when Manny Machado slid hard at second base on a force play. Machado’s slide carried him past the bag, and his spikes caught second baseman Dustin Pedroia in the leg.

Pedroia had to leave the game with a calf injury, and some Red Sox fans and media on Twitter criticized Machado for what they perceived to be a dirty slide.

Machado, for his part, said he was simply playing hard and had no ill intent on the slide.

“I was trying to do everything possible to be safe and get ourselves in a good position in a two-run ballgame,” he said. “We know how good they are. We want that cushion. It wasn’t intentional. I was trying to get on the bag. If you see the replay, you see how my body comes off the bag and hits him right in the path.

“I don’t wish bad upon nobody. I don’t want to go out there and hurt someone. I know what it is to be in that position. We’re just trying to hustle and play for our team and do what we’ve got to do.”

Machado said he texted Pedroia after the game to make sure he was OK.

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“I hope everything’s all right and nothing’s too serious,” Machado said. “It always sucks when a situation like that happens. Me as a player and as the guy I was raised to be, you never wish that upon anybody. You never want to ruin someone’s career like that.”

Some in the Boston media insinuated that the Red Sox might retaliate against Machado later in the series. Machado said he’s prepared for whatever happens.

“I don’t expect anything. I’m going to play baseball. What happens, happens. …They’ve got to protect their players, they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do on their side. It’s up to them,” Machado said. “I know what I’m going to do over here on this side and I know what I’ve got behind me. There’s 25 guys plus the coaching staff on our side. So, I’m not expecting anything. I’m going out there and just playing and trying to win more ballgames.”

A slew of southpaws

With his outing Friday, Red Sox lefty Drew Pomeranz continued the parade of southpaw starters against the Orioles this year. They’ve faced left-handers in nearly half their games — seven out of fifteen — and are scheduled to face another Sunday, former O’s prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. The club has yet to play more than two straight games against righty starters.

The early-season onslaught of lefties is unusual. Last season, only two of the Orioles’ first 15 games were against southpaws, and they didn’t face their seventh one until game 26. Two years ago, they didn’t face their seventh lefty until their 38th game. All told, the Orioles have faced an average of 45.8 lefty starters per season the last five years, representing 28 percent of their games.

The lefty-heavy schedule has meant plenty of playing time for righty-swinging rookie Trey Mancini, who has started against all seven southpaws and hit so well that he’s earned opportunities against right-handers, too. It’s also put reserve outfielder Craig Gentry in the lineup five times, and he reached base three times from the leadoff spot Friday.

On the flip side is Hyun Soo Kim, who has found starts hard to come by. Kim has yet to record a hit against a lefty in his major league career, albeit in a very small sample size. He was 0-for-18 against them in 2016 (including a hitless at-bat against switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, throwing lefty) and hasn’t faced a southpaw yet in 2017.

Kim, who was an everyday player in the Korean Baseball Organization, seems to be relegated to a strict platoon role for the Orioles until further notice. When he’s out of the lineup, the Orioles are missing their top on-base man from last season (.382 OBP). They’d be well served to get him more frequent playing time once the run of left-handed starters simmers down.

Getting the best of Betts

Three games into their season slate against the Red Sox, and the Orioles have been able to do something they couldn’t last year: contain Mookie Betts.

In 2016, Betts was a one-man wrecking crew against the Orioles. He set a Camden Yards record by crushing eight home runs — the most ever by a visiting player in a single season — including five homers in back-to-back games May 31 and June 1. By contrast, he didn’t homer more than once at any other road ballpark, and none at the other three AL East road parks. Betts also had 15 RBIs in Baltimore last year, almost twice as many as at the other three AL East venues combined (eight).

In total, Betts torched Oriole pitching for a .408 average and 1.293 OPS in 19 games last season, including .514/1.771 in 10 games in Baltimore.

This year, it’s been a different story. Betts went 0-for-4 Friday, including a popout against Mychal Givens to end the eighth inning with the possible tying run on base. Betts is now 2-for-14 against the Orioles so far.

Again, it’s early. The Orioles have 16 more games scheduled against the Red Sox this year, and Betts could easily erupt.

If he does, feel free to blame me for the jinx.

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