The Orioles almost made it through another game last night without committing an error. They were clean for six innings before Adam Jones skipped a throw past Manny Machado in the seventh that allowed Anthony Gose to score.
Who knew that the defense would become ... I won't say a "strength," but a contributing factor in the Orioles' surge?
In the past 11 games before last night, the Orioles had posted a .990 fielding percentage that led the American League. They've now committed only five errors in their last 106 innings.
Machado has calmed third base, along with manager Buck Showalter's nerves. It makes little sense, considering he's a 20-year-old career minor league shortstop who played two games on the hot corner at Double-A Bowie. OK, so he took ground balls there three or four times a week. It's still not the same as game conditions. And it's certainly not the same as major league game conditions.
Well, the numbers don't lie. Machado has played every inning at third since the Orioles selected his contract on Aug. 9, and he's made a grand total of one error. One. Uno. And it was the product of a lousy call in Detroit.
Machado is displaying great range and a cannon arm. He hasn't been perfect. I recall a poor throw to second base in New York that denied the Orioles a chance to turn a double play, but you can't assume one, so the runner beating the relay to first reached on a fielder's choice. But that's nit-picking. The kid has been anything but overmatched at the plate or in the field, and any talk about moving J.J. Hardy off shortstop to make room for him needs to be silenced once and for all.
Shortstop can wait.
Machado had two more hits last night, making him 11-for-25 with five multi-hit games in his last six.
If only I knew an infielder who played shortstop and moved to third base who could offer an opinion on Machado. Or... stay with me here... an infielder who began his career at third, moved to shortstop and went back to third.
Crazy, right? Oh, wait...
"Manny is a very talented player, and I think ultimately the experience at third base will make him a better shortstop," said Cal Ripken Jr. "He's got all kinds of tools. The ball he hit to left-center (Tuesday) night was an absolute missile. And he's going to keep learning. He's gotten to the big leagues and he's facing the toughest pitchers, and he'll learn. He'll be up and down, but it looks like he's got his feet on the ground.
"He doesn't play like he's 20. I've always been impressed with him, even the first day I saw him. When he came to Aberdeen, Buck (Showalter) came up to watch him on an off-day, and I sat with him and watched (Machado). He was very mature even at an early age in the field and at the plate.
"One thing is he doesn't look 20. He looks like he's been playing games for a while."
He's going to play another one tonight when the Orioles open a crucial four-game series against the Yankees at Camden Yards. The place will be packed.
Ripken's statue will be unveiled on the 17th anniversary of 2,131. Seems about right. And Ripken will watch Machado play third base. Also seems right.
NOTE: The Orioles have released a statement from owner Peter Angelos on the death of former Ravens owner Art Modell:
"Art Modell was a National Football League visionary and pioneer whose impact on the game continues to this day. He and his late wife Pat were as committed to philanthropy as they were to professional football in Baltimore and beyond. On behalf of the Orioles organization, I extend my condolences to his sons, John and David, and the rest of his family."
The Orioles will observe a moment of silence for Modell before tonight's game.
Also, a limited number of standing room only tickets remain for the game.