The mock crying from one of Manny Machado’s teammates on the other side of the clubhouse following today’s game was meant to lighten the mood, though the shortstop already was smiling and ready to represent the Orioles in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. That part was real.
Did Machado play his final game as an Oriole at Camden Yards? Let everyone else speculate and stress over it.
At no point in the day did Machado, who homered in the first inning and later walked, step back and allow himself to get swept up in sentimentality. He wasn’t tempted to soak in the atmosphere and say his goodbyes as if there wouldn’t be a return to Camden Yards next week unless it’s to pack his belongings.
“No, not at all,” he said after a 6-5 win over the Rangers. “I’m the type of player, once I get in there I’m locked in, I’m trying to win. I’m trying to go out there and leave it all on the field. Whether we lose, whether we win, you just go out there and leave it on the field.”
And sometimes you come off it.
Manager Buck Showalter removed Machado before the top of the fifth inning following a 26-minute rain delay. The infield was wet, the risk of injury to baseball’s biggest trade chip too extreme.
“After a rain delay, I have no idea,” Machado said. “I don’t know why he did it or not, but he just told me, ‘Hey, I’m going to take you out. You had a good first half, and go represent us well in the All-Star Game.’”
Showalter hinted at the reasons for taking out Machado, knowing the assembled media understood the situation.
The field conditions were “part of it,” Showalter said.
“I think we’re all adults here, some more than others, right? We know what’s going on, the potential. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that was all it. My thought on that is, what are you telling the other eight people?
“Obviously, there’s a different situation going on with Manny. That’s just frankly. You all know that. That had a lot to do with it.”
The grounds crew applied the usual drying compound to the infield, mound and home plate area, but the Orioles weren’t taking any chances.
“We played on stuff all year long like that,” Showalter said. “The grounds crew is so good, it gets better as the game goes on. But a month ago he wouldn’t have come out of the game. We know that. You all know. You’re smart. I think you know what’s going on.”
The trade talks spilled onto the field today for the first time beyond late-inning substitutions in lopsided games.
“I was proud, I was really proud,” Showalter said. “Players are very smart, they know what’s going on and they try not to listen to a lot of it, but people are constantly reminding them of it. Heck, my daughter is even asking me if I know and I don’t, which, ignorance is bliss for me.
“I talked to Manny during the rain delay and talked to him again before I came down here and we’re looking forward to watching him play for the Orioles in the All-Star Game. Feel confident that’s going to happen.”
If Machado remains with the Orioles as they begin the second half in Toronto, Showalter isn’t certain whether more concessions will be made to lessen the chance of injury.
“I can’t really say,” he said. “There are variables that play into each day, and I take the variables in that day and see how it correlates to where we are with everything. Dan (Duquette) and his group are working very hard on a lot of things to make us better today and down the road, and the timing of that is always a challenge.
“I’m going to make sure he doesn’t have to worry about anything down here and we’ll make the adjustments that need to be made.”
Adam Jones, whose three-run double in the third gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead, downplayed the impact of the Machado drama.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on, so ... We don’t know what’s going on. We’re not privy to the information. Everything is a secret, so once we know, then we can act. If we don’t know nothing, then we can’t act.”
The win was secured after Mark Trumbo ran down Elvin Andrus’ two-out double into the right field corner off left-hander Zach Britton and fired to Jonathan Schoop, who threw home to get pinch-runner Carlos Tocci by a comfortable margin. Caleb Joseph slapped on the tag and the Orioles had a 4-4 homestand to close out the first half.
“That’s textbook,” Showalter said. “A lot of times you get in too big a hurry and you don’t set your feet and the guy who’s receiving the ball has to make an adjustment to the throw. The catcher, if you take that extra half count and throw the ball where you’re supposed to throw it, if you try to speed the play up too much, you’re going to mess it up. But it was good. A lot of good things.”
Miguel Castro threw 60 pitches in 2 2/3 innings, walked the first three batters he faced and surrendered a grand slam to Ronald Guzmán. Tanner Scott earned his first major league win, striking out two batters in two-thirds of an inning, and Mike Wright Jr. allowed only a solo home run to Shin-Soo Choo in three innings. Left-hander Paul Fry tossed 1 2/3 hitless innings and lowered his ERA to 1.00.
“Obviously, Miguel struggled early on,” Showalter said. “He got back the second inning, got us back there. I thought Mike Wright had the key outing. Tanner got back on the horse. That Fry’s been good, huh?
“That’s the challenge of a game like this. If everything you try to do doesn’t work, you’re pitching somebody you don’t want to pitch.”
The Orioles won their first home series since May 11-13.
“I think it was a good homestand for the fans who have been supporting us all year,” Jones said. “Obviously, it’s been a very frustrating first half, but (eight) games here, (4-4) so it’s something positive going into the break. Some good weather, so we had some good crowds, some good giveaways, and they got to see some good baseball finally. So, I think the last week was pretty good in that regard.”
Said Showalter: “I’ll feel better about it when we get a longer period. I’m not going to sit here and jump up and down on a 4-4 homestand, but comparatively speaking, sure, I’ll feel good about winning two games in a row before we start the break.
“We act like it’s a month. It’s four days, two of which you spend traveling. So, it’ll be here before you know it. Hopefully, a lot of things will be a lot clearer by the time we get to Friday, but don’t count on it.”