I understand this feels like the Manny Machado Farewell Tour, so maybe this appreciation piece isn’t, well, appreciated.
But goodness is the Orioles shortstop putting on an offensive show right now.
Say it’s walk-year motivation or the enthusiasm associated with playing shortstop full-time or that he’s simply entering his prime, but I’m not sure the explanation really matters.
This is the time to enjoy it.
Machado was 2-for-4 with six RBIs in the Orioles’ 9-4 win against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night. He homered twice – a two-run shot in the first inning and a grand slam in the seventh – and is hitting .354 on the year.
It’s his fourth multi-homer game of the season – and the season is 38 games old. And he has 18 multi-homer games, tying Andruw Jones for fifth most among all right-handed hitters aged 25 or younger in baseball history.
The grand slam was Machado’s 150th home run in his career – and that’s particularly impressive because he isn’t 26 until July. He’s the youngest Oriole to reach that milestone, passing Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.
Machado now has eight career grand slams, which ties him with Chris Davis, Cal Ripken Jr., and Chris Hoiles behind only Eddie Murray (16) on the Orioles’ all-time list.
No one expects Machado to climb up all the all-time lists in franchise history, given his pending free-agent status.
But what he is accomplishing this year is tremendous – and he looks primed for the best season of his young career.
“We’ve seen him at some pretty high levels, OK? It’s been sustained for a long time,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s been fun to watch him. He’s just been so consistent.”
Some real energy at Camden Yards on Friday
When Mark Trumbo homered to right in the seventh inning of Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, it struck me.
This is what 2018 Orioles baseball was supposed to be. This is what fans were expecting and the front office and ownership were hoping for when Opening Day neared – well before the club plummeted into last place, an acre away from the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Trumbo connected with a 91-mph fastball from Tampa Bay’s Jake Faria and the announced crowd of 28,170 erupted while fireworks – the rocket-red-glare ones — exploded in center field.
It gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead, which they eventually turned into a 9-4 victory, their third straight win and their longest such streak of the season.
Reality and 11-27 record aside, Camden Yards was rocking Friday night. The crowd was energized like it hadn’t been since Opening Day. It was also the second largest since Opening Day.
Part of the reason for the spike in attendance I’m sure was the goofy Star Wars promotion – in which fans dressed as Darth Vader and that ilk – and part of it was that it was a scheduled Fireworks Friday Night. Add in the fact it was finally a beautiful evening for baseball (80 degrees with a breeze at first pitch), and there was a shot it would be a good night for the fans.
Ultimately, the Oriole had to play well for the full effect. And they did, with a strong performance by Kevin Gausman (two runs in 7 1/3 innings) and a power display by Machado.
The club played pretty good defense, too, for most of the game.
When Machado’s grand slam left the park, it was downright loud at Camden Yards. That’s always good to witness, especially in a season that has started so dreadfully.
Tillman’s MRI shows strain
Showalter said after Friday’s game that right-hander Chris Tillman underwent an MRI of his back earlier in the day, and that showed enough of a concern to put Tillman on the 10-day disabled list with a lower back strain.
“He was in an MRI tube for quite a while today,” Tillman said. “I know what some of the findings were and the DL was obviously needed.”
No timetable is set on Tillman’s return, but certainly the Orioles won’t be pushing him to back until they are confident he can improve dramatically on his 10.46 ERA.