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Orioles' Jonathan Schoop surging since trade of double-play partner Manny Machado

When Jonathan Schoop saw that his fifth-inning homer in Friday’s 15-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays was the longest hit by an Orioles player this season — it was estimated at 446 feet — he chuckled as he went to his phone, saying he was going to text Manny Machado to tell him he hit one longer than he has this season.

When Schoop was trying to find answers for his first-half struggles at the plate, Machado would remind him of the frustrating first half he endured last season, and how he salvaged his season after the All-Star break.

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Machado is no longer with the Orioles to offer that encouragement on a daily basis, even though the two have still spoken regularly since Machado was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 18. But since then, Schoop has come into his own, showing flashes of regaining the form that made him one of the game’s top run producers in 2017.

Schoop is hitting .394 (13-for-33) since Machado’s departure. His homer in the Orioles’ win Friday gave him long balls in five consecutive games, one shy of the Orioles team record set by Reggie Jackson (1976) and Chris Davis (2012). He’s homered in six of his seven games since his double-play partner left.

“I guess he doesn’t miss me that much,” Machado said laughing earlier this week before a game in Philadelphia after Schoop hit his third homer in four games.

Former Oriole Manny Machado wishes his goodbye was different, but looks forward to a bright future.

After a three-hit night Friday, Schoop is hitting .378 in 21 games since receiving a brief reset after his average had dipped to .197. He’s hit eight homers and driven in 16 runs over that stretch, but also hasn’t drawn a walk in 90 at-bats during that time.

“I think it’s just when I get a pitch to put a good swing on it and make it go forward,” Schoop said after Friday’s game. “I’ve had some good at-bats, even three weeks ago, not two months ago, I was getting pitches to hit but I wasn’t doing damage with them. I was fouling it back, I was getting jammed, I was missing them. Right now, I’m putting good contact on them.”

Schoop’s surge is coming while his name is being mentioned more in trade discussions as the nonwaiver deadline approaches Tuesday. While the Orioles are focused on trading pending free agents Adam Jones and Brad Brach, they have been willing to discuss controllable players such as Schoop, who doesn’t become a free agent until after next season.

“No, I just come in here and try to help my team and try to block all these things out,” Schoop said. “I can’t do anything about it. Even if I know, what can I do? I can do nothing, so the only thing I can do is go out there and play the game the way I know how to play.”

He’s rebounding much like Machado did last season. Machado hit .290 in the second half after posting a .230 average in the first half in 2017, and improved his OPS from .741 to .826.

When the Orioles traded Machado, he sent an Instagram post thanking the fans, his teammates and coaches, and finished it by writing, “Scoopy, carry the torch.”

“Why didn’t he tell him in April?” Orioles manager Buck Showalter deadpanned after Friday’s game. “Jon’s capable of that type of production.”

While Machado is no longer Schoop’s teammate, he said earlier this week he’s still going to encourage Schoop from afar.

“I’m still going get on his ass,” Machado said. “I want him to do well. I know he struggled the first half. I was in that same boat last year, so I’m going try to keep him on that same path of doing what he needs to do. … I want him to do well. I see he’s starting to do well and I know he’s going to continue to do that. He’s got the right people around him as well. So he just needs to continue to keep doing what he’s doing and stay on that same plan.”

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