For a baseball player as accomplished as Manny Machado to reach new heights in his career, he had to rely on the familiar Saturday.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning of the Orioles' eventual 9-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers, Machado represented the Orioles' best chance to get back into a game that was 8-3 at the time. He took a pair of massive swings with grand slam intentions, nearly falling over when he fouled off the second strike, before reining himself in.
As he's done more often than ever, Machado shortened up with two strikes, got himself under control, and took a slider off the outer half of the plate up the middle for a two-run single to bring the tying run to the plate in Adam Jones behind him.
"What Manny has really had going here is he's taking what they're giving him," manager Buck Showalter said. "They're not giving him much. You see him punching balls into right field and taking the ground-ball single up the middle and not trying to get too big."
Machado has always hit with two strikes at a better clip than the league average, but this year, that's at another level. As he struggled last year, his .185 average in such situations was much closer to the league average of .179 in that category than his career .209 mark was.
With two hits with two strikes Saturday, he's now hitting .238 (10-for-42) in such situations. That's by far the best on the Orioles, and represents just the latest step in a career progression that's barreling toward free-agent riches this offseason.
"Everybody always kind of gets on all of these guys because they think they're all power-oriented," Showalter said. "But when you have that type of power at your finger, so to speak, it takes a lot of discipline to stay in the mode of operation that Manny is in right now. He's taking what they give him. Regardless of who's hitting behind him, people are going to pick the other poison."
He collected his 12th multi-hit game out of 27 Saturday, raising his batting line to .358/.438/.679 with a team-high nine home runs and 22 RBIs.