In the top of the ninth inning last night, with the Tampa Bay Rays threatening to break a 2-2 tie, rookie Manny Machado made a sparkling play at third base to help closer Jim Johnson get the Orioles out of the jam.
Evan Longoria hit a dribbler down the third-base line. Machado charged, faked an emphatic throw to first base then spun and flipped the baseball to third to J.J. Hardy, who caught Rich Thompson off the bag. The stunned pinch runner was stuck in no man’s land, and was eventually tagged out in a rundown for the third out.
“It just comes out,” Machado told our beat writer, Eduardo A. Encina, after the game. “That's one thing about having good instincts for the game. Things come out that you don't ever plan or you don't even practice.”
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The cherry on top for Machado was scoring the game-winning run after Nate McLouth's hit in the bottom half of the ninth inning.
The night got sweeter for Machado following the Orioles' 3-2 win -- and after the celebratory shaving cream pie from Adam Jones -- when the 20-year-old was awarded a “Web Gem” by ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” crew and his savvy play at third base was No. 1 on the “Top 10” plays on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” this morning.
Watching the game at home last night, I tried to explain Machado’s mastery to my fiancée, but all she wanted to know when the game was going to be over so we could flip over to “House Hunters.”
So instead, I am sharing my thoughts on Machado’s play with you.
After watching the play, care to make a hyperbolic boast about it?