Machado’s previous absences from the lineup were caused by injuries or suspensions that kept him out of the dugout. But manager Buck Showalter excluded Machado yesterday, citing a sore right index finger.
It’s obvious that umpire CB Bucknor working the plate factored a least a little bit into the decision. Machado was furious after Bucknor ended the previous night’s game by ruling on appeal that the third baseman didn’t check his swing. Machado slammed his helmet to the ground and yelled at Bucknor before Showalter intervened.
Machado wanted to play yesterday, but never made it onto the field except to catch Dylan Bundy as he warmed between innings.
“That was the first time I’ve ever been on the bench,” he said. “It was weird. Very weird.”
Reporters and other media types checked on Machado at his locker earlier in the day. He made it clear that he was ready to get back in the lineup.
“”Yeah, I’m good, I’m good,” Machado said. “Just one of those days you get benched. You take it for what it is and move forward. Today, I feel good and back on the horse.”
Showalter said the sore finger made it more difficult for Machado to grip the baseball.
“It’s not a big deal,” Machado said. “That’s normal stuff, that’s normal baseball. Everyone in the big leagues hits the ball off the end of the bat and their finger rattles. It’s just part of the game. It’s nothing serious, just part of it.
“I don’t think that was one of the reasons why I didn’t play yesterday. I could have played. Just got benched, like I said.”
Said Showalter: “He said, ‘If I square the ball up, there’s no issue.’ He was real upbeat about it today. He didn’t feel much of anything. The thing that made me give him the day more than anything was his ability to grip the ball firmly.
“Jon (Schoop) has had some of that. Jon’s still sore from the hit by pitch. What people miss about this game, you may be able to play a day or two later, but the effects of that linger on for sometimes a month. It’s hard. There’s a lot of things that don’t really heal until the season is over.”
Machado played in the first 38 games and is batting .224/.308/.441 with six doubles, nine home runs and 23 RBIs. Being off might have provided a chance to freshen him up.
“It does and it doesn’t,” he said. “Every time you get a day off and you come back to play, you kind of feel a little sluggish in a way. But I did stuff in the weight room to keep myself going. Stay with it so I wouldn’t feel sluggish. But it definitely does help the body and it takes a lot of wear and tear off it.”
More exhausting was a 1-6 road trip that included six one-run losses.
“It’s just part of the game,” he said. “This is how it is. We’re hitting, they’re hitting. Our bullpen and pitching staff are keeping us there. It’s not a matter that they’re doing bad or anything. They’re keeping us in the battle. Just not timely hitting. But it’s a long season. It’s still May and we have a lot of games ahead of us to play.
“To win those one-run games, we had a nice little streak going and that’s how baseball is. Things can turn quickly. We’re just glad to be back home and get back in the groove of things and hopefully start a new streak.”
Seth Smith isn’t starting tonight after being hit on the left cheek yesterday by a foul ball. He homered in his next at-bat, but his vision began to blur and Hyun Soo Kim moved to the on-deck circle in the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter.
“That’s why I didn’t hit him the last time,” Showalter said. “I thought there was a danger issue there. You do need to see the ball to hit, so that was a challenge.
“He’s had some of this in the past. We all know our eyes real well, how they respond to different things. They kept ice on between innings. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more with hitters. Seth stays on the ball so long.
“He’s had some history with something with his eyes. And that’s what I’m waiting to see. I think just about every hitter has had something like this happen and they all respond a little differently. Some people, they might get a headache.”
Schoop might be heating up again after his averaged climbed to .306 on May 10. He has three hits, including two doubles in his last eight at-bats. Schoop leads the team with 12 doubles, followed by Chris Davis with seven.
Showalter is watching Schoop slowly mature as a hitter.
“I talked to him probably a week or two ago,” Showalter said. “He had a situation, man on third and one out, and didn’t get the run in or have the type of at-bat that ... I said, ‘Jon, let’s don’t talk about what you were thinking there. Get the run in, get that guy in. Let’s cut out all the other stuff, let’s stick our nose out there.’
“Day before yesterday, he had second and third and he walked. Great at-bat, one of best at-bats of the road trip, because so many guys in that situation are trying to walk you if you’ll let them, but you let them take you out of the zone a little bit and either strike out or put the ball in play weakly. Jon should be so good at that. He has been. I don’t know if you’ve been watching the last 10 days, two weeks.”
The Orioles can use his production near the bottom of the lineup, though he’s leading off tonight with Smith on the bench.
“He stretches out the places where guys can kind of semi-coast,” Showalter said. “I’ve said many times you look at lineups and how they compare to your six, seven, eight and nine hitters. And Jon is capable, and I’m hoping, will hit higher in the lineup in his career, especially if he keeps doing the things on the maturity standpoint at the plate that he’s been doing this year.”
Chris Tillman is making his third start tonight, though perhaps not on time with the tarp back on the field.
“It doesn’t surprise me that command has been a little bit of an issue,” Showalter said. “Chris, as long as he’s healthy, he’s going to seek his level. What I like about Chris is that when he’s not carrying great command, he figures out a way to survive, to keep us engaged. He’s always competitive, for the most part. But to get deeper in games and be what he’s capable of being, the command of his fastball is going to have to be a lot better than it’s been.
“He knows that. You can say that about all our starting pitchers, though.”
Outfielder Craig Gentry has been activated on Triple-A Norfolk’s roster after the Orioles outrighted him earlier this week. He’s starting in center field tonight.
Pedro Álvarez is playing first base for the first time this season. He’s been in right field or serving as designated hitter.
Update: The Orioles scored a run in the second to take a 1-0 lead, but they left the bases loaded.
Update II: Tillman retired nine of the first 10 batters, but he hit José Bautista with a curveball to open the fourth and the Jays scored three times to take a 3-1 lead.
Justin Smoak had an RBI single, Devon Travis had an RBI double and another run scored on Ryan Goins’ grounder.
Update III: Welington Castillo hit a two-run homer in the sixth to tie the game. He’s batting .361.
Trumbo led off with a single and Castillo followed with his second home run as an Oriole and his first at Camden Yards.
Update IV: Castillo hit a two-run homer off Jason Grilli with two outs in the 10th inning to give the Orioles a 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays.
Trumbo singled with two outs and Castillo produced his first career walk-off home run. This is his fourth career multi-homer game.
The Orioles are 7-1 in extras this season.