Make a great defensive play in the top of the ninth. Single and score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Just another night for Manny Machado, who at this time last year was leading Frederick to a Carolina League championship.
Machado had just about everyone in the Yard marveling at his play that got the last out of the Tampa ninth. He charged in to field a slow roller off Evan Longoria’s bat and then made a fake throw to first, spun around and threw back to third. Rich Thompson had rounded the bag and was out in a rundown between third and home.
“It is just natural,” Machado said of the play. “I didn’t even think about it. We we’re all pumped for that play and that last inning. It was instinctive, it just came out naturally.
“To be honest, nothing went through my head like throw to third. It just came out. It just came out and I did the pump fake, I don’t know from where and made a throw back.
“At first I thought I had him (Longoria) and I remembered Sunday, the Jeter play where I threw the ball away and kind of figured I couldn’t get him out.”
Machado then led off the ninth with a single to left, reached second on a bunt and scored on Nate McLouth’s walk-off single to right to end the game and give the O’s a 3-2 win over the Rays.
“It’s great,” Machado said. “Buck has confidence in me putting me in the lineup every day. I just go out there and give him 110 percent.”
Manny has been hearing some chants of “Manny, Manny” from the crowd during this homestand and they got real loud tonight.
“The crowd is into the game and hearing my name like that and the “O,” it’s great feeling inside.”
A few weeks ago he called Bowie’s Prince George’s Stadium home but now Machado gets to play in the midst of a pennant race.
“I would have thought I’d be in the playoffs for Bowie (this time of year), but I’m enjoying every moment up here.”
J.J. Hardy was on the receiving end of Machado’s quick throw back to third base.
“That was a great play by Manny,” Hardy said. “Smart. I don’t know if he would have been able to throw out Evan anyway. For Manny to do what he did just shows you how aware he is at 20 years old.
“He’s really impressed me. He’s really aware of everything that is going on around him and for him to do that, in that situation, is impressive,” Hardy said.
A reporter asked Hardy how important Machado has been to the team’s success?
“He’s been a huge part of it,” Hardy said. “He’s solid over there at third base and he has a lot of range there. Everyone knows he’s a shortstop playing third base, so he’s got the range and it’s given Reynolds the chance to play over at first and he’s saved us a bunch of errors over there.”
Did Hardy wonder if Machado could handle all this when the team called him up early last month?
“It’s not our job to try and think with the front office but we trust them. If they say he’s ready, then he’s ready and they were right. He’s doing great,” Hardy added.