The Baltimore Orioles are in a tie for first place in the American League East Division with the New York Yankees after a victory Wednesday night, a victory that had Manny Machado’s fingerprints all over it.
Machado, the rookie phenom/third baseman who turned 20 on July 6 and made his major league debut Aug. 9, came up with a sleight-of-hand play in the ninth that preserved a tie with the Tampa Bay Rays. In the bottom of the inning, with Camden Yards rocking, he scored the winning run. 3-2 Orioles, simple as that.
But the moment that had everyone abuzz — once they figured out what was happening — came two outs in the top of the ninth with Evan Longoria hitting. Pinch-runner Rich Thompson stole second. With the count full, Longoria bunted up the third-base line and Machado, playing out of position at third, charged the ball, barehanded it and faked a throw toward first. Thompson rounded third and — oops! — Machado threw to shortstop J.J. Hardy covering third. Voila, inning over.
“I was trying to get Evan out to be honest, but then when I came up I saw I had no chance,” Machado said. “So I did a pump-fake and tried to deke the runner. It was just natural. I just came out and didn't think about it.”
In the bottom of the inning, Machado singled, took second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Nate McLouth’s single. Yeah, it was just natural. The Post’s Tom Boswell wonders:
Can the Orioles win enough of their last 20 games, perhaps 11 of them, to make the playoffs, beating (gulp) the Yanks in the AL East or edging the Athletics, Rays and Angels in a fight for two wild cards?
Each of these crisp September nights the standings will shuffle. The Orioles’ fate will seem to soar or sink. Please, sir, can we have just a few more one-run wins?
And just a little more Machado magic.
Boswell: The Orioles are no fluke
Box score: Orioles 3, Rays 2