Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was always going to be the villain after his reckless slide into Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia last month sparked tension between the clubs.
It wasn't a given that he'd handle it as well as he did, though, and the Orioles were 5-2 winners before an announced 33,489 at Fenway Park on Monday night because of it.
"Certain guys don't mind that," manager Buck Showalter said. "Not that they want it. It's just that they don't mind it. Manny's a confident guy, but he's very respectful of the game and his teammates and everything that goes on. He's a historian of it, and he knows things. He likes baseball. He likes competing, and he's accountable. When something doesn't go right, he's the first one to say so. We were proud of him tonight."
Machado, who last week acknowledged that he controlled his temper after a pitch near his head because he knew he had a reputation as a villain, was booed every time he stepped up to the plate. Both teams took pains publicly to say the animosity had died from just eight days ago, when Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes almost hit him with a pitch, but the fans didn't forget.
Neither, it appears, did Machado. Before he could make an impact with his bat, he did it with his glove. He made seemingly an astonishing play an inning in the early going, beginning with turning a double play on a ball hit over 108 mph right at him by right fielder Mookie Betts. He made four impressive putouts in the first five innings, then shifted his impact to the batter's box.
"I'd like to say that's the best defensive game I've seen Manny have, but he's had a few of those," Showalter said. "I was telling him, 'It's kind of like the basketball game where you isolate Larry Bird or somebody and get out of his way.' We're just trying to figure out a way to throw a pitch where they hit it towards Manny. I cannot tell you how hard those plays are, and Adam [Jones] put on a show out there, too. I thought Ryan [Flaherty] made a couple of good plays, one down in the corner and one coming in. We needed all of them."
Already leading 1-0, Machado hit a hanging breaking ball by reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello over everything in left field for his fifth home run of the season, doubling the Orioles' lead to 2-0 in the sixth inning.
According to Statcast, the estimated 420-foot home run came off his bat at 105.2 mph, and perhaps more telling of his reception, it took him 29.2 seconds to get around the bases.
He was certainly going to savor every second of it. Only one of his career 110 home runs trots took longer. Machado didn't notice.
"I mean, that's normal," he said. "Nothing different. I see the ball like I always do and I start running the bases."
Machado added another RBI in the team's three-run eighth inning, which proved the decider, and gave him 15 RBIs this season. To him, the whole night was unspectacular, even if the hostile Boston crowd made the team win all the more satisfying.
"I just go about my business," Machado said. "I've got to come out here and perform regardless, whether they boo me or whether they don't. I've got a job today and that's what I went out there today and did."
And in fitting fashion, Machado dived to his right to catch a line drive that was sure to be extra bases for the final out of the game.
That, he said, was his favorite.
"Those balls were coming in hot," Machado said. Those were tough hops and I was just making good plays on them. Sometimes, you get lucky and you just stick the glove out there and it sticks. It wasn't an easy night at third, but me and [coach] Bobby [Dickerson] have been talking about staying a little more focused and doing the little things. ... I think the last one was nice. I think my last diving catch was the best one. It was just the cherry on the cake."
Another hit batter: In the home half of the sixth, those hostilities seemed to renew a bit. Orioles starter Dylan Bundy, in the midst of a two-hit shutout, lost a couple of fastballs inside to Betts, the second of which plunked the Most Valuable Player runner-up in the ribs. There was no incident after — Betts jogged to first base and Bundy left him there with a couple of flyouts.
Bundy and Showalter said after the game it was not intentional.
"I think he had four walks tonight, didn't he?" Showalter said. "How many walks did he have? Four walks? … OK. Nobody is trying to hit anybody there, obviously."
Bad baseball: The only reason the Orioles didn't rue the two runs Bundy was charged with in the eighth was a series of errors committed by Boston in both halves of that frame. The Orioles scored three unearned runs after pitcher Heath Hembree, third baseman Marco Hernandez and left fielder Andrew Benintendi committed errors on consecutive plays.
Boston could have had more than their two, but Benintendi ran into an out on the base paths.