When Manny Machado walked off the field Sunday afternoon, he was tied for the major league lead with eight home runs and ranked in the top 10 in almost every relevant offensive category.
To be precise, he is in the top five in hits (31), doubles (seven), homers (eight), batting average (.356) and OPS (1.147). He ranks in the top 10 with 17 RBIs.
In other words, he is ascendant at a time when his team is hurtling over the precipice.
The Orioles lost to the Cleveland Indians, 7-3, and have dropped eight of their past nine games. They have shown signs of an improved starting rotation, but have scored three or fewer runs in 15 of their first 22 games.
So, if you’re in your walk year and are putting up numbers that could make you the most valuable player in a deep free-agent market next winter, are you walking on air right now or walking an emotional tightrope?
“Unfortunately, it's not going so well because the team is not winning,’’ Machado said after an afternoon in which he went 3-for-4 with two home runs off Indians ace Corey Kluber. “At the end of the day, it's about winning games. When you come in here and you have a good game like I did today and you come out with a loss, it's not fun.
“So, other than that, I just want to keep playing and keep swinging there. I'm finding a lot more holes this year, and I'm just lucky enough that hopefully we can keep grinding and we can start a nice little hot streak and turn things around.”
That’s going to be a challenge until the Orioles get back a handful of injured players who are key to a lineup that was once feared throughout the American League.
The Orioles are 6-16, and they are playing without leadoff hitter Trey Mancini, 2017 Most Valuable Oriole Jonathan Schoop and slugger Mark Trumbo. Mancini is the only one of them who is expected back before the end of the current homestand.
If that’s a convenient and logical excuse for what is going on right now, Machado wants no part of it.
“You know what, there’s no excuse for what’s happening,’’ Machado said. “No one knows what’s going on, we are just losing games. We need to play better overall. Nobody is in here pointing fingers. We are in here together and we are going to ride or die together.”
Of course, it doesn’t help that the Orioles have played all five of last year’s playoff teams during the first 3½ weeks of the season. They conclude that difficult stretch with Monday night’s series finale against the Indians.
“You are facing Cy Young pitchers. It’s tough to get some runs on them,’’ Machado said. “So when you get some runs on them, you try to keep the lead and keep going. But they’ve got a really good ballclub on the other side. You can’t just rely on them not swinging the bat. They are a great ballclub as well. We just need to be playing better.”
Machado would have a tough time playing much better than he has so far this season. He’s in the midst of a 10-game hitting streak during which he batting .410 with five homers, eight runs and 11 RBIs.
“He’s on top of this game on both sides of the ball for the most part,’’ Showalter said. “It’s been fun to watch. He was locked in. … You guys saw him in the spring. He was locked in the first day of spring. He’s carried that over to the season.”
Of course, if things don’t turn around for the rest of the club over the next few weeks, speculation about Machado’s near-term future with the team is certain to intensify.
It’s too soon for that, but — to paraphrase the late, great Yogi Berra — it could get late pretty early if this keeps up.