Throughout this season, Manny Machado has entertained all questions about his future. Through every stop in each city he could potentially land, he answered all queries about trades or his pending free agency, but always emphasized that he wanted to maintain his focus on the field.
It’s made for a season unlike any other for Machado — who could be traded to a contender any day now — but he’s still been able to allow his play to do the talking throughout one of the worst seasons in Orioles history.
Still, as the nonwaiver deadline approaches, Machado acknolwedges he’s begun to get caught up in nostalgia, unsure whether each day — every approaching game — could be his last in an Orioles uniform.
“You know what,” Machado said, “it crosses my mind, I’m not going to lie. You just try to enjoy your moment, try to enjoy the season like I have since Day One, since I stepped in here. You try to take it all in. Nobody ever wants to think about that day.”
And as another Orioles game was derailed by a unique series of events, Machado kept his club in Tuesday night’s contest against the New York Yankees nearly by himself, hitting a pair of game-tying homers before second baseman Jonathan Schoop’s game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Orioles a 6-5 walk-off victory.
It’s a near certainty that Machado will be performing such heroics elsewhere before long, as each memory he creates for the hometown crowd at Camden Yards in an Orioles uniform could be among his last. Seven teams have already made trade offers for Machado, and this week’s series against the Yankees coincided with news that the Yankees are also making a play for Machado.
And on Tuesday night, the Orioles (26-66) had a rare reason to celebrate. After Schoop’s two-out game-winning hit skipped into right field, the first person to give him a celebratory shoulder bump as he rounded first base was Machado, who recorded his fifth multi-homer game of the season and the 19th of his career in the Orioles’ first walk-off win since Opening Day .
“Like I told a couple guys in here, I don’t remember the last time we had a walk off,” Machado said. “Hopefully this builds. Everyone in here loves those types of games. It’s just unfortunate for everything that’s been happening, but hopefully one of these games can boost the ballclub and start to turn things around. Hopefully some people start getting hot. Little by little people are getting better, people are getting underneath their legs, pitchers are feeling a lot more comfortable, bullpens doing better. Hopefully we can keep it rolling.”
Asked if he has to think about whether the latest Machado feat could be his last as an Oriole, manager Buck Showalter said flatly: “Unless you know something I don’t, he’s playing tomorrow.”
“I think if and when it happens, it’ll be something I’ll have a better reflection on,” Showalter said. “Right now, I think we are excited about beating a real good team.”
Despite being buried in the American League East standings and just 11-24 against division competition, Tuesday’s win gave the Orioles a 5-4 record against the Yankees.
“We always, since I got called up, we always played good against the Yankees,” Schoop said. “We've always been good, so this year isn't different. But we're still not done yet. We're going to keep believing in ourselves, keep going out there, and you never know what can happen.”
On most nights, there’s one play, one at-bat or one sequence of pitches that sends the Orioles on their way to another defeat. And on Tuesday night, that one moment could have been Joey Rickard nearly making one of his finest defensive plays of the year but having the ball pop out of his glove when Schoop accidentally kicked it trying to avoid a collision.
Staked to a 2-0 lead, Andrew Cashner had retired the first 13 batters he faced before Didi Gregorius’ one-out single in the fifth. Miguel Andújar lifted a foul fly ball to right that Rickard made a diving play on before Schoop made contact with him.
Andújar walked on the next pitch, and the next batter, Greg Bird, hit a three-run homer onto the flag court in right field. Cashner crouched over, hands on his knees in resignation.
“I made a good pitch there in the fifth [to Bird],” Cashner said, “But he just went for it.”
But Machado came to the rescue, tying the game on the first pitch of the bottom of the fifth with a solo homer off Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka, sending an 89-mph cutter deep into the left-field stands an estimated 444 feet.
Cashner left the game with runners at the corners and one out in the seventh, allowing a double by Gregorius on a ball that skipped past a diving Adam Jones in center field and a single by Andújar. Miguel Castro allowed both inherited runners to score, the first on Bird’s sacrifice fly and the second two batters later on Neil Walker’s RBI single.
In the bottom half of the seventh, Machado tied the game again. After Jones reached with a one-out single, he took a 97-mph full-count fastball over the grounds crew shed in right-center, a ball that was initially ruled in play for a long single but became a home run after a boundary call review.
“I just think he’s a star player,” Cashner said of Machado. “I think you have these big moments and he always shows up and he shines. It’s impressive to watch. I’ve never seen a guy, every time you need a big hit he comes through, whether it’s a base hit, whether it’s a homer, whether it’s defense. It’s really impressive.”
Machado wasn’t allowed to win the game in the ninth against Betances as he was issued an intentional walk with first base open and one out after Caleb Joseph was hit by a pitch and Jones looped an opposite-field double into the right-field corner.
Betances struck out Mark Trumbo, but Schoop hit an opposite-field single that skipped over Bird’s glove at first base and scored Joseph for the winning run.