Manny Machado turned 20-years-old in July. Less than two months later, he was playing an integral role for the Baltimore Orioles, a Major League Baseball team in the midst of a pennant chase.
Last night, with first place in the American League East on the line and the score tied 2-2 with the Tampa Bay Rays in the top of the ninth inning, Evan Longoria hit a slow roller up the third base line. Rich Thompson, on second base at the time, was running as Jim Johnson’s 3-2 pitch came to the plate. In fact, he reached third base just as Machado was picking up the squibbler from Longoria.
With little chance of reaching first base in time with a throw, Machado bare-handed the rolling ball, faked to first, turned, and fired to the equally intelligent J.J. Hardy who was there at the bag in preparation to receive Machado’s throw. Thompson got caught up in a pickle, and was eventually tagged out by Matt Wieters.
Machado and Hardy’s game intelligence was as equally impressive as their decisiveness in this play.
Just in case you weren’t convinced by Machado’s heroics in the field though, after being the integral part of ending a volatile ending for the Orioles, he led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to left field, moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored the walk-off winning run on a Nate McLouth single.
Game. Set. And match.