NEW YORK — Orioles third baseman Manny Machado has said repeatedly that he is just soaking up the playoff atmosphere, trying to have fun and not do too much. He's here to do what he can to contribute, not be a savior.
That sentiment works, until you start making history.
Machado led off the fifth inning Wednesday by hitting a slider from New York Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda into the visiting bullpen to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
It was Machado's first postseason homer — but it was so much more than that.
It was just the second homer by an Orioles' rookie in postseason history; the first occurred two innings earlier when Ryan Flaherty hit a Kuroda pitch over the right-field fence. According to Stats LLC, two rookies have never homered in the same game for any team in postseason history.
Machado entered the record books on his own, too.
Machado, who is 20 years old and 96 days, became the first player under age 21 to homer in a Division Series since the wild-card was instituted in 1995, according to home run historian David Vincent.
Only four other players under age 21 have homered in any round of the playoffs, according to Vincent.
Andruw Jones, who at 19 years and 177 days, homered for the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series in 1996. Three days later he homered twice in the World Series.
Miguel Cabrera homered three times in the NLCS and once in the World Series for the 2003 Florida Marlins at 20 years old (and 172 to 180 days). Mickey Mantle homered in consecutive games in the 1952 World Series for the New York Yankees days before his 21st birthday.
That trend bodes well for Machado. No under 21-year-old has ever homered in one postseason game without doing it at least one other time in that year's playoffs.
Machado, the third pick overall in the 2010 amateur draft, grew up in Miami idolizing current Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. But in this series, the 37-year-old Rodriguez has been dreadful, with one hit and seven strikeouts in his first 12 at-bats.
Meanwhile Machado, who was just happy to get promoted from Double-A Bowie in August and to be part of a pennant contender, has done something that Rodriguez and most everyone else to wear a major league uniform hasn't accomplished.
A playoff homer to give his club the lead in a playoff game before he can legally drink a beer.