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After getting firsts out of the way, Manny Machado continuing to get comfortable on the field

MINNEAPOLIS -- In Manny Machado’s second game back from offseason left knee surgery, he recorded his first hit, scored his first run and made his first diving play at third base in the Orioles’ 3-0 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday.

“I’m not sure we win that game if Manny wasn’t playing third last night,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I love watching [pitching coach] Dave [Wallace]. He’ll make a play and kind of look at me. And I’ll say, ‘Oh he’s got better. He’s got another level. Just hold on.’”

Machado, a Gold Glove defender who won the American League Platinum Glove last season as the league’s top overall defensive player, has made the same play – where he ranges to his left and dives for a ball in the hole – many times before, but he said making it Friday was a mental step forward coming off his injury.

“I squared up a couple of balls yesterday and made a nice play,” Machado said. “That’s just a part of the game. It’s something that will help me keep getting my confidence up. The more I do it, the better I’m going to feel.

It was the first time Machado made a diving play since returning and to him, it was a good sign that he was able to make the play instinctually. 

“It’s just reaction, hands down,” Machado said. “Grounders, running the bases, it’s second nature. But you know what, I felt good doing it. That’s just the beginning of it. Hopefully I can get to a few more balls and get my reaction a tad bit quicker. It was a good play and a good day overall.

“You can’t practice that,” Machado added. “You can’t practice the diving play. You can only practice so much. After that, it’s just allowing your natural ability to take over and do what you need to do to make that play – to make that diving play or that bare-hand grab or hit a triple or whatever. It’s just a matter of now keeping the ball rolling. Hopefully it keeps rolling and I get into my groove quicker.”

Around the horn

After going 2-for-4 on Saturday, Nick Markakis extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Over that stretch, he is hitting .364 (16-for-44) with two homers and six RBIs. … The Orioles are 6-7 in day games. … After hitting a two-run homer on Friday night, Nelson Cruz led the AL with 21 RBIs on the road entering Saturday’s games. His .709 road slugging percentage is second to the Los Angeles Angels’ Albert Pujols (.733) and his five homers are tied for fourth in the AL on the road. ... Right-hander Steve Johnson, who has been on the minor league disabled list with shoulder tendinitis, was activated at Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday.

eencina@baltsun.com

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