Manny Machado walked to the plate with a storybook return to major league action in mind.
Machado, fresh from offseason knee surgery and in his first game of the season, led off the bottom of the ninth early Friday morning in a tied game.
He ultimately popped up to short center field, capping an 0-for-5 performance at the plate that didn’t put much shine on what was otherwise a good day for the Orioles.
"Definitely. It crosses your mind a little bit, I'm not going to lie," said Machado, when asked whether he wanted to be the hero in that at-bat. "But you have to stay with the moment, stay with the pitch. Just take it one pitch at a time. The pitcher came up with a win there, but I'll bounce back from it."
And the Orioles bounced back for a 6-5 win on a walk-off home run by catcher Matt Wieters in the 10th inning.
Manager Buck Showalter praised Machado for impacting the game in other facets.
“Manny saved us two or three runs tonight defensively,” Showalter said. “He's real close. That will come, and I think what we missed as much as anything is the stability he gave us in the infield.”
Machado made two big plays late in the game, the first charging for a groundout by Andrew McCutchen in the eighth inning for the inning's second out, and the second with two down in the 10th, when he charged across the infield and threw on the run to get Gaby Sanchez at first base.
Machado, who was held out of the first game Thursday, said it was “awesome” return to action.
“First day back, walk-off win,” he said. “Great game, great pitching staff, great two games. Couldn’t be happier.”
He received a standing ovation from the announced 28,290 in his first at-bat.
“I had to take all of it in,” Machado said. “For the fans to go out there and cheer for me once I went out there and ran a couple of sprints, and then I got a standing [ovation] when I came up to the plate. I want to give thanks to all the fans for coming out and supporting us. Hopefully it's going to be a big a year for us.”
Machado said he felt healthy, an impression Showalter got as the game progressed.
"I kept asking him [how he felt]," Showalter said. “After about the sixth inning ... he finally gave me that look like, 'Don't ask me anymore.' "
Here’s what the rest of the Orioles had to say about the doubleheader sweep against the Pirates:
Darren O’Day on pitching twice in one night
"What's funny is tonight, I felt way better than today. We're creatures of habit. Three days off and all that rain, I think, is harder for us than throwing two days in a row. I guess we were pretty rusty. Luckily, the guys fought through it."
O’Day on the sweep
"It's a momentum-builder. I think we need to talk to Mr. [Peter G.] Angelos about maybe getting a roof or something. That would be nice, coming off the top of the Warehouse. That would be great. Then we wouldn't have to wait. We could play a game every day."
Matt Wieters on his approach in the 10th inning
"You don't try and think about hitting one out, because it's tough to do when you do that. But trying to get on base really and trying to hit something hard is something, especially when it gets into extra-inning games as the catcher. You want to be able to try and speed it up, the inning, as much as possible."
Wieters on Chris Tillman’s first inning
"You know, they kept fouling off pitches. He actually threw the ball OK. He was up in the zone in the first inning, which led to some foul balls, but after the first inning, it's just tough to do when you have a -pitch first inning, to get deep into games. He actually threw the ball real well after the first."
Tillman on the effect of his long first inning
"I didn’t notice it. I’ve been there before, I think. You expect to beat them again, with however many pitches you’re going to throw. I don’t think any [one] inning matters to me. It was for me, knowing I have to get deeper in the ballgame, and after that first inning, it was tough, but I still had a job to do. I can’t think about that."
Showalter on Tillman
"I know he's real disappointed because Tilly's going to be one of those guys who's really going to benefit from getting on a schedule of five days, if this schedule ever lets up with all the challenges faced here. April and May, we knew coming in, were going to be a real challenge, getting any consistency. Sit around as long as we have the last three or four days and come out and swing the bats and make the pitches our guys made, I can't tell you how hard that is."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun