Manny Machado’s talents are no secret in Baltimore, and he’s unquestionably one of the major league’s top young players. But playing in the opening round of his first World Baseball Classic this weekend, the Orioles third baseman took no time emerging as a star on the international stage.
This was the first time Machado – a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner -- played in this kind of international event (he represented Team USA on a Pan American Games junior national team as a teenager). And on a Dominican team full of experienced veterans, the 24-year-old Machado emerged from this weekend’s Pool C play at Marlins Park with the best round of any of his teammates.
Over the course of three days here in Miami, the Miami-born Machado – who decided to play for the Dominican to honor his Dominican heritage -- became the darling of a pro-Dominican crowd that filled Marlins Park, so much so that after he started an inning-ending double-play in the fifth inning of the Dominican’s 10-3 11th-inning pool-clinching win over Colombia, he trotted off the field to the chants of “M-V-P.”
It was a play he’s made look routine in his four-plus seasons manning third base for the Orioles. With a man on first and the tying run at the plate in the form of Colombia first baseman Giovanny Urshela, Machado made a diving backhanded stop down the line, quickly got to his feet and started a 5-4-3 double play.
After pool play at Marlins Park wrapped up on Sunday, Machado was named the MVP of Pool C.
In those three games, Machado was 5-for-14 -- a .357 batting average -- with three runs scored and two RBIs. He reached base twice in all three games, serving as the catalyst for the Dominican offense, hitting from the No. 2 spot.
"It’s unbelievable," Machado said about hearing the M-V-P chants. "You’re playing for your team, you’re playing games, you’re trying to do everything possible to win some games. I’m just out there enjoying myself, and the crowd’s definitely helped us to win some games, and they’ve been supporting us the whole time and it was just an unbelievable weekend."
On Sunday, his third-inning RBI double down the left-field line plated Jonathan Villar from second base to give the Dominicans a 2-1 lead. Machado scored two batters later on a fielding error by Colombia shortstop Donovan Solano.
Machado also ended a Colombia rally in the first inning, corralling a wicked in-between hop to his glove side and throwing to first to strand the bases loaded in a 1-1 game.
And less than 24 hours earlier, Machado’ 435-foot solo homer to left field ignited a Dominican comeback from down five runs in its 7-5 win over Team USA to take control of the pool.
Both hits were rockets off Machado’s bat. His double Sunday had an exit velocity of 116.5 mph, and his home run came off the bat at 110 mph.
Machado and his Dominican teammates now go to San Diego for the second round of games, beginning with a date with undefeated Pool D winner Puerto Rico on Tuesday.