The Red Sox broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the sixth inning last night when rookie Manny Machado couldn’t field Dustin Pedroia’s slow bouncer with runners on second and third and two outs.
Machado charged the ball, but didn’t come up with it. Not an easy play, but one that had to be made.
“They got lucky,” said reliever Luis Ayala, who took the loss. “Ground ball. Tough play, but it was a key for the game.
“We got lucky, too. We got a nice play with Machado, too. It’s part of the game. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes not.”
Two more runs scored in the inning, and the Orioles had to put their brooms away. They wouldn’t sweep the Red Sox.
Machado has been playing so well at third base, it’s worth a reminder that he only spent two games at the hot corner at Double-A Bowie. He’s still making the transition. He’s just made it look easy at times, including his diving backhanded catch to end Wednesday night’s game.
“It’s early,” manager Buck Showalter said yesterday. “His clock’s good. I think we saw that with Josh Bell when he first came up. It took him a while to get his clock adjusted to the major leagues. Getting to know the hitters a little, knowing when he’s got to hurry a little bit. We try to make him aware of it in advance meetings and stuff, guys who might quick-pitch him, stuff like that.
“One thing about our dugout, I really get a feel for range of shortstops and third basemen because of the vantage point you have, and he’s handled it well so far. Little things like, all good third basemen have a certain slot they throw on the 5-4 feed and he works on that a lot. I think that’s going to be OK for him, too. You’re not always going to throw that ball over the top full throttle. You’ve got to throw it in the box, so to speak, with the infielder coming across. Made a couple nice tag plays. Seems to be comfortable so far.”
This is the point where Showalter takes us a little deeper inside the game.
“Balls have a little more top spin at this level,” he said. “Getting used to our grass this time of year, it’s got a little more drag on it. A lot of times you get a ball hit and it’s almost like a changeup. It’ll hit and drag, and when it does that, it picks up top spin on the next hop the thicker the grass is. Probably another two or three weeks, our grass will change a little bit.”
If Machado changes, it’s only expected to be for the better.
“I’m proud of the way he’s handled it,” Showalter said. “I know that we’ve talked to him about a couple pick plays that we have in the bunt defense that we went over in the spring. That was another good thing about having him in the spring and having our Double-A and Triple-A teams running basically the same bunt defenses that we’re running up here. A lot of it has just been a matter of going to the next level.
“We give our managers in the minors leagues the leeway to tweak some things according to the skills of their players. But you want Manny when he’s your shortstop to be the lead man on your relay. And (Jonathan) Schoop throws as well as he does. Schoop can really throw. And it’s good, too, because Jonathan’s getting to play some shortstop down there.”