WASHINGTON — Apparently, the price for hitting a dramatic home run off Nationals ace Max Scherzer is a chance to get a baseball stuck in your ear.
Manny Machado came back to the plate in the ninth inning of Wednesday night's 4-3 victory and Nats closer Jonathan Papelbon buzzed him near the head with his first pitch. Two pitches later, he hit Machado on the left shoulder, just inches from his jaw.
Papelbon was immediately ejected, but argued vociferously with the umpires while Machado walked very slowly down the first base line -- stopping about halfway to watch the argument. Two umpires quickly moved in between them to make sure there were no additional hostilities.
"It's just [BS],'' Machado said. "It's something … I mean a 10-year vet, with more than 10 years in the game and he's going to go out there and throw at somebody's head. I mean, once, and then he throws a curveball to kind of get you off the mood, then throws up at the head. It's something that's uncalled for. ... It's something that you don't do. I expect more from a guy like that with the past that he has."
Though both benches emptied slowly to observe the dispute, there was no other contact between any opposing players or coaches. Orioles manager Buck Showalter ignored the umpires and went right to first base to stand alongside Machado and make sure nothing happened that might put his third baseman in any physical peril.
Machado stood at first base for a long time staring at Papelbon after the Nats reliever returned to the dugout, but Papelbon would not make eye contact with him.
If Papelbon was making the case to the umpiring crew that the third pitch was not an intentional head ball, he certainly wasn't going to get any takers in the Orioles clubhouse. He's a very good control pitcher and the fact that he came close the first time and went right back to that spot left little room to believe that it was accidental.
Machado showed impressive restraint immediately after the ball hit him. He apparently learned from the bat-throwing outburst in that game last year against Oakland that led to Machado being suspended for five games.
"Honestly, I'm here and I play for the Baltimore Orioles. I play for this organization and we have a goal, which is to make the playoffs. We're just going to keep playing baseball," Machado said. "If I go out there and do something that I'm not supposed to be doing, I'm going to hurt the team -- not myself but hurt the team -- and that's something I don't want to do. You gotta be smart in the situation. We have a long-term goal here. We're trying to make the playoffs. We're in the running. We've got to just keep playing baseball. That was my whole thought process."
Still, the umpires will be on full alert on Thursday when the O's and Nats play their rain makeup game at 4:05 at Nationals Park, and Papelbon should be prepared to get a letter from the Commissioner's Office informing him when he can take a day or two off.