Manny Machado had plenty to celebrate before the Orioles' interleague contest against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Earlier in the day, he received word that baseball fans had anointed him the starting American League third baseman in next week's All-Star Game. Machado, who will play in his third All-Star Game, said being voted in by the fans was the best birthday present he could receive.
And minutes before Machado turned the ripe age of 24 — at least on the East Coast — he pulled his team out of its longest losing streak of the season with one swing, crushing a three-run homer off Dodgers rookie right-hander Kenta Maeda in the fifth inning to propel the Orioles to a 4-1 victory in front of an announced 45,373 at Dodger Stadium.
"We got the 'W,'" Machado said. "We needed that. We've been scuffling a little bit and we've been putting ourselves in bad situations, but today we came up clutch. People got on base, we did what we needed to do and we got the 'W.' So I'll take that over anything."
With the win, the Orioles (48-35) snapped their five-game losing streak while ending the Dodgers' 10-game home winning streak and now hold a 2 ½-game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays atop the American League East. The Orioles will still finish their nine-game West Coast road trip with a losing record, regardless of the result Wednesday afternoon when they close a three-game series with the Dodgers.
"Believe me, I got that they are grinding," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We knew getting to this [stretch of] 16 of 19 [games on the road] spot was going to be a challenge, just like the season we already played. When you start throwing out everything guys have done to get you to this point, you are going to send a bad message."
Right-hander Chris Tillman – the Orioles' most dependable starter – recorded his best start in more than two weeks, holding the Dodgers to one runs on five hits over seven innings.
"[He] kind of dialed up something we were in need of," Showalter said. "Kinda a reminder that's how you play it: Score some runs and play good defense and make it stand up at the end."
Maeda stumbled through the fifth, allowing a leadoff single to Adam Jones and walking left fielder Hyun Soo Kim before hanging a 2-2 curveball to Machado. The Orioles third baseman jumped on the 75-mph meatball, sending it an estimated 453 feet into the upper part of the left-field bleachers at an exit velocity of 109 mph.
"I got it good, good hitters hit it a little harder over the stadium, but I guess I don't have that pop," Machado deadpanned.
Machado's homer – his 19th of the season – was just his second over his last 15 games, but Machado is hitting .409 over that stretch (27-for-66).
In Machado's first at bat of the night, he was robbed of a hit by Dodgers' center fielder Trayce Thompson, who flagged down Machado's drive to the right-center warning track just before crashing into the outfield wall.
Machado then returned the favor in the sixth, robbing Thompson of a leadoff infield single by back- handing a grounder down the line and throwing on the run, three steps into foul territory.
"Manny had a lot of good swings," Showalter said. "A lot of guys get robbed by a great play their centerfielder has made, they think 'Woe is me, not going to be my night.' Manny, he's handled it very maturely the ups and downs of a major league season."
Maeda allowed 10 baserunners (seven hits and three walks) over four innings and was the second Dodgers pitcher in as many nights to fail to get beyond four innings. The Orioles chased fellow rookie Julio Urias from Monday's game after just 3 1/3 innings, but they couldn't hold two early three-run leads in a 7-5 loss.
Tillman serves as stopper
The Orioles received a much-needed quality start from Tillman, who gave the Orioles their longest start in 13 games, when Kevin Gausman went 7 2/3 innings in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Tampa Bay on June 25.
"You know what, we try to go out and get deep in the game every time," Tillman said. "There is no question to it. It's been a rough go here recently, but it was good to come out on top. … We were able to mix pitches just enough and make some pitches when we had to. I felt like we had pretty good command of all the pitches tonight."
Tillman (11-2), who grew up in nearby Fountain Valley in Orange County, hadn't gone beyond five innings in any of his previous three starts, but on Tuesday he handcuffed the Dodgers. After Chris Taylor's one out single in the second inning,
Tillman retired 16 of the next 19 hitters, allowing just two singles and one walk over that span.
"I think he was pretty bummed out about his last couple of starts," Machado said. "He puts a lot of pride and a lot of emphasis into it. Knowing him, his last two starts [didn't go] well, and he wanted to come and prove a point today. He did that and more. … He threw all his pitches today. That's what he's been. He's been a horse for this team."
The only run the Dodgers scored off Tillman came in the first inning, when Corey Seager hit a one-out double and then scored two batters later on Adrian Gonzalez's two-out RBI single
"I knew in that first inning I made some good pitches and they were able to find a way to put some good at-bats together," Tillman said. "That was impressive on their part. But I knew we had to settle in and start making pitches to get deep in that ballgame."
The Orioles have won 13 of Tillman's 17 career interleague starts, and he is 5-0 with a 2.70 ERA over his last eight starts against National League competition.
Tillman's 11 wins are tied for second-most in the AL, but it wasn't enough to earn selection for the All-Star Game – the Orioles will send five players to San Diego – but Tillman said he wasn't disappointed by not making the game.
"A lot of guys deserved it and there are some really impressive years going on," Tillman said. "I got a chance to congratulate all our guys today and I'm happy for them."
Reliever Brad Brach, who made his first All-Star game earlier in the day, struck out the side in the eight on 13 pitches and closer Zach Britton – named to his second All-Star Game – converted his 24th save in as many opportunities with a scoreless ninth.
Wieters shines at plate and behind it
Catcher Matt Wieters, who made his fourth career All-Star Game on Tuesday, made an impact with his bat and his arm against the Dodgers.
Wieters singled in each of his first two at-bats against Maeda, and then his most instrumental play game on defense, when he threw out would-be base stealer Howie Kendrick to end the fourth inning.
His throw-out of Kendrick – who was a perfect 7-for-7 on steals on the season – came in a tied game, so Wieters stopped the potential go-ahead run from advancing into scoring position. Machado broke the tie with his home run the next half-inning.
Wieters has thrown out seven of 27 potential base stealers this season.