Machado makes history
(Manny Machado doing his post-game interview on MASN with a face full of shaving cream.)
BALTIMORE– Manny Machado held up the ball from Thursday night’s triple — his first career Major League hit — and grinned as he remarked he was hanging on to the keepsake forever.
The way this is going, Machado might want to rent out some extra locker space. The Orioles rookie connected for his first Major League home run in the fifth inning on Friday night against the Royals, then went deep again the following frame, hitting a three-run shot to chase Royals starter Luke Hochevar from the game.
The pair of homers — which invoked chants of “Manny” from 17,277 at Camden Yards — culminated with a standing ovation and an eruption of cheering as the young Machado came out for a quick curtain call during just his second Major League game.
“Jonsie pushed me out there,” Machado said of centerfielder Adam Jones, part of a tag-team with infielder Robert Andino that –not even 30 minutes later –enveloped the rookie in a shaving cream pie that perhaps has never been more celebrated.
“They got me real good,” Machado admitted with the Orioles cap hanging in his locker still completed covered. “I think I’ve still got some in my ears.”
But no amount of shaving cream could drown out the exuberant chants of an Orioles’ fanbase witnessing history as their long-awaited “infielder of the future” became the youngest player in franchise history — at 20 years and 35 days old — to post a multihomer game smashing the previous record set by Boog Powell, who was 20 years and 258 days old when he hit a pair of homers on May 2, 1962.
“It was the best feeling ever,” Machado said after depositing Hochevar’s pitch into an already-standing crowd and simply putting his head down and running, allowing the fan’s chants to take hold of the stadium. “The crowd here loves me and for them to support me like that, after my first home run, it just felt great.”
It was his second home run, a 1-2 curveball, that propelled Machado into greatness. Since 1918, only 11 players younger than Machado have recorded a multihomer game, with the most recent having come on Aug. 30, 2011, when Angels superstar Mike Trout was 20 years and 23 days old.
“It’s one of those nights that you’re really honored and lucky just to watch,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I look at it more from a city of Baltimore standpoint. [Machado will] put it behind him and realize there’s another challenge tomorrow.”
In his first two days, Machado has passed every test, and made quick work on the record books. His first homer marked the youngest by an Orioles’ player since Hall of Famer Jim Palmer did it as a 19-year-old on May 16, 1965.
His second –which also scored Wilson Betemit and Nate McLouth – amazingly landed in the same spot: Adam Corder’s hands. Corder, 15, is a Millersville, Md., native who currently lives in the United Arab Emirates caught both of Machado’s homers from section 78, row 14 at Camden Yards.
“I was surprised,” said Machado, who met with Corder after the game and exchanged some autographed balls and a bat for his first home run ball. “I heard it in the dugout, somebody told the officer the same kid caught both balls, I was like, what? That’s crazy.”
So is the immediate effect Machado –whose promotion was heavily debated around baseball – is having in Baltimore. Coming off a 2-for-4 debut, Machado was back in the starting lineup on Friday night, playing third base and moving up a spot to eighth in the batting order, with struggling infielder Mark Reynolds shifted to the bench.
With the Royals starting Hochevar, Betemit made his first start at first base since July 3, while Reynolds — batting .188 with seven of his nine homers against righties — the odd man out. Betemit entered the game batting .306 with 11 home runs against right-handed pitching, and Friday’s start marked his 12th start at first base, with the Orioles having gone 7-4 in the previous 11 games.
While Showalter has stuck with Reynolds despite a prolonged power outage, the arrival of Machado at third base could change things. Chris Davis has taken over most of the team’s designated-hitter duties as Jim Thome recovers from an injured neck on the disabled list, and with the Orioles trying to shore up a defense that leads the Majors in errors, Reynolds’ playing time could diminish, particularly against right-handed starters.
“We’ll take each day as it comes,” Showalter said when asked if Friday’s lineup was an indicator of things to come. “We’re going to serve our team’s needs first and then keep in mind where Manny is in his day-to-day development. So today, it worked best this way. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Machado, a right-handed hitter, tripled and scored a run in Thursday’s debut, and both Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette made it clear that the promotion was made because they feel he can help the club win games.
While Machado’s natural position is shortstop, he held his own at third base on Thursday, recording a pair of putouts and an assist, and he fared well again on Friday night.
Reynolds started the season as the team’s third baseman before being moved to first base, shifting Davis, who has played all over the diamond, to third base, left field and some time at DH. The team’s leader in home runs (37) and RBIs (86) last season, Reynolds entered Friday with a .210/.327/.378 line, including nine homers and 34 RBIs in 87 games. Friday marked just the second game Reynolds did not start since July 4.