Manny Machado has rescued the Orioles offensive many times this season, and though Thursday’s display held a different script — he’s usually saved his game-saving heroics for the late innings — it didn’t take away its importance in the Orioles’ 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards.
Machado’s first-inning two-run homer, his 33rd of the season, gave the Orioles their first lead since they blew a 6-1 lead Monday, ending the club’s 26-inning scoreless stretch.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before the game that Machado was a game-time decision after missing Wednesday’s game while battling a bout with the flu. Showalter had Machado’s name in the lineup, but said he was 50/50 going into batting practice.
Machado played, and lifted a 2-1 changeup from Matt Andriese deep into the left-field stands. That would be all that Orioles right-hander Gabriel Ynoa, making his third start of the season, would need as he held Tampa Bay to one run on five hits over eight innings.
“Manny’s still not feeling well, you know?” Showalter said. “I talked to him earlier and said, ‘I’m going to make two lineups out. Let me know.’ He thought he might get to feeling a little better as the day wore on. And I’m not so sure he did a whole lot. So, it’s another example. We’ve got guys who post up. I hope everybody appreciates it. You’ve got to go somewhere else and see how hard that is to do. I fully appreciate it. I’ve seen it….”
The claim can be made that the Orioles go as Machado does, and that was the case in August, when the Orioles enjoyed their best month of the season as Machado won AL Player of the Month honors, hitting .341/.348/.690 with 12 homers and 35 RBIs.
As the Orioles have sputtered in September, Machado has struggled as well, going into Thursday’s game hitting .229/.295/.357 this month. He had just one RBI – and no homers – in 13 games going into Thursday. As a team, the Orioles averaged just 2.6 runs over that stretch.
But on Thursday, Machado fought back the flu bug to help the Orioles offense to get back on track.
“It was a grind,” Machado said. “Still feeling it a little bit. Actually was pretty good when I went out to play. You’re just thinking about the game, trying to win and make things happen.”
The Orioles might all be out of the race — and fighting an uphill climb to avoid their first losing season since 2011 — but Machado said they’re still going to finish strong.
“You know what,” Machado said, “it’s our goal. We still want to win. We’re a competitive team and we’re not going to stop fighting. We know it’s a longshot for us to make it or if we’re out already, but we’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to keep doing what we need to do to keep winning. That’s all we know how to do out here.”