If you were worried about Manny Machado, worried that the stress of that looming huge payday after the 2018 season has been affecting him, I think it’s OK to breathe a little easier now.
Well, at least until that huge payday comes around and the Orioles are competing with every team with deep pockets. And one of the greatest homegrown talents in franchise history is tempted to cash-grab elsewhere.
But worry about that later.
Because Manny Machado is Manny Machado again. And then some.
Machado homered three times Friday night in the Orioles’ 9-7 win over the Los Angeles Angels, including a walkoff grand-slam with one out in the bottom of the ninth. It was his second-career, three-homer game, 12th multi-homer game and second time he has driven in seven runs.
And it came at a tremendous time, with the Orioles looking like they were again going to fall short against an Angels team that was three games ahead in the AL Wild Card race when play started Friday.
“You never take it for granted,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Machado. “I cannot tell you how hard it is to do, but there’s always that potential when you’re dealing with guys like Manny.”
I’ll be honest. I take it for granted. The guy is just 25, but he’s done so much in his career already that you just assume he is going to produce ridiculous numbers every season. And when he didn’t tear it up in the first half — .230, 18 homers in 83 games – most of us automatically started wondering why, looking for the explanation or the excuse.
And then he absolutely, positively goes on a tear in the second half.
Consider this: In 17 August games, Machado is hitting .360 with eight homers and 28 RBIs. He has three grand slams – three – in his last 11 contests.
“Everybody likes to hit with people on base. Those are RBIs you’ve got [to get], especially with less than two outs. You try to get one at least. That’s my mentality going up there,” Machado said.
Well, mission accomplished.
Suddenly, Machado, who was pied – remember that? – by Adam Jones after the heroics, is in the groove that we all have come to expect. Even if those expectations are unfair.
“I know sometimes because of how fluid he is, sometimes people don’t know how much he cares and how hard he works,” Showalter said. “For a young player to go through the struggles he did with that kind of talent, to get back is a real testament to him and his makeup.”
Hellickson struggles mightily with homers
In the first two games of Jeremy Hellickson’s Orioles career, the veteran right-hander was good – really good.
He threw seven shutout innings in his debut on Aug. 2 against the Kansas City Royals at Camden Yards and then gave up three runs in six innings at the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 8.
The struggles Hellickson had had in Philadelphia before he was traded to the Orioles on July 29 – lots of hits allowed, lots of fly balls that occasionally went over the fence – were non-existent.
Hellickson’s last two outings, though, haven’t been pretty.
On Sunday, he gave up six runs in five innings in a loss at Oakland. He was victimized by a five-run inning which included a three-run homer.
And, Friday at Camden Yards, the wheels came rolling off the Hellickson train faster than you could say, “Where have you gone, Hyun Soo Kim?”
Hellickson allowed seven runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He gave up five – yes, five – homers, a career high for the 30-year-old veteran.
By his 24th pitch of the first inning he had allowed three runs on two homers (consecutive shots by Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun). Hellickson served up two more longballs in the second and one more in the fifth (a two-run homer by Mike Trout).
“Just left too many pitches up in the zone. All over the plate,” he said. “I kind of got in a groove there in the third, fourth inning. Then I left another pitch over the plate. I just didn’t execute.”
Anyone can have a bad game. That happens. Hellickson is a fly ball pitcher and it’s August in Baltimore, so there are gonna be nights like these for him.
I’m not sure there is anything to immediately worry about here. And it’s encouraging he battled to post scoreless frames in the third and fourth.
So, you take this as a mulligan and hope it doesn’t happen again. Not much else the Orioles can do at this point.
Santander’s first hit, first great play and first slip and slide
Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander’s major league debut had its memorable moments.
In the ninth inning, Santander led off the Orioles’ big rally with a line drive single to right, his first major league hit. He then scored his first run on Machado’s grand slam.
“I could not imagine something like this,” the 22-year-old Venezuelan said through an interpreter. “But this was amazing, Something I’m never going to forget.”
He also made a great play in right field in the second inning, diving in the wet grass to take a sinking liner away from Trout.
Santander also had his first highlight for the blooper reel. After his great catch, he got up to run into the dugout and slipped, falling right back down on the field, face-first.
“The guys were ribbing me a little bit in the dugout,” he said. “But it was fun. I made the catch and we won the game, so it was all fun.”