BALTIMORE — Baltimore Orioles rookie third baseman Manny Machado has spent his brief time at third base in the big leagues making difficult plays — like a slow roller down the line — look routine.
But the charging bare-handed, throw-across-the-infield plays he’s made paled in comparison to the one he made Wednesday night in another riveting Orioles win.
With the go-ahead run on second base and two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Machado charged Evan Longoria’s slow roller to third. But instead of throwing to first — it would have been a tough play to make — he faked the throw and caught pinch runner Rich Thompson off third base for the final out of the inning.
Moments later, Machado led off the bottom of the ninth with a single off Rays reliever Kyle Farnsworth and two batters later scored the game’s winning run after Nate McLouth’s walk-off single hit off the right field fence just to the left of the foul pole for a 3-2 win over the Rays.
“It’s neat because almost daily you can kind of sense and feel the excitement growing a little bit,” said McLouth, who was mobbed near second base after his game-winning hit and hoisted by teammate Chris Davis in the scrum. “The crowds are almost like college football crowds, to be honest with you.”
The Orioles (80-62), who improved to 26-7 in one-run games, kept a share of first place in the American League East while sending the Rays three games back in the division and AL wild-card standings.
Machado made several key defensive plays at third — not bad for a 20-year-old who played just two games there at the Class AA level before he was called up to the majors to be the team’s everyday third baseman.