Even in an unimpressive loss, Manny Machado is fun to watch

Orioles' 20-year-old third baseman continues his tear with 4-for-5 day and three doubles

May 15, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

The question came at Buck Showalter a few minutes after the Orioles' shaky 8-4 loss to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, when it seemed the only bright spot at Camden Yards all afternoon was the white-hot bat of Manny Machado.

"Is the way Manny's hitting even starting to amaze you guys?" a reporter asked.

Showalter grimaced like a man who'd just dropped a brick on his foot.

Then the Orioles manager put a finger to his lips in the classic "Shush" sign and looked around the room and said: "What else?"

Meaning shut up about Manny.

Meaning don't jinx the guy.

Meaning let's see how this wonderful ride the kid's on plays out before we start dissecting it and talking about how it makes us feel.

Finally, Showalter relented and said: "I'm proud of the way he's handled the early success. ... He's been fun to watch."

Oh, has he ever.

All he did Wednesday against the Padres was go 4-for-5 with a career-high three doubles to notch his 18th multi-hit game, tying him with Kansas City's Alex Gordon and Detroit's Miguel Cabrera for the major league lead.

The third baseman has now had at least three hits in four of his last five games. And over his past 21 games, he's batting a scorching .419 with 12 doubles, a triple, three homers and 13 RBIs.

Oh, and after Wednesday's game he led the majors in hits with 59, one ahead of Cabrera . And he was tied with Mike Napoli of the Boston Red Sox for the major league lead with 17 doubles.

Do we have to mention to anyone in this town that he's only 20 years old? No, probably not.

But it's Machado's ridiculous start at the plate, coupled with the incredible poise he's shown so far in his first full season, that has even the rest of the Orioles shaking their heads.

"I won't say surprised, but you don't expect a young player to get off to as hot a start as he did," Chris Davis, the big first baseman, said. "The consistency's the thing he's been great at. It's not one or two games here or there. It's every night getting one or two hits. And the defense.

"He's really grown this year and understands his role. And it's really big for him hitting in the 2 hole and having a little bit of protection behind him."

Machado himself seems singularly unimpressed — to the point of being blasé — with his amazing start at the plate.

A group of us media types waited him out after the game while he went off to lift weights.

When he finally emerged a half hour later, he was so low-key about the way he's swinging the bat that I swear three reporters and a TV cameramen actually fell asleep listening to his answers.

"Personally, I'm real satisfied with what I'm doing," he began. "I have a little more adjustments to make."

Adjustments?! You're knocking the cover off the ball! They can't get you out!

What kind of adjustments are we talking about here? Chewing bubble-gum instead of sunflower seeds?

"There are certain things," Machado said. "Some at-bats, some pitches, I get a little lazy."

Right. Otherwise he'd probably be hitting, what, .600 instead of .343?

Only when someone asked if he could ever imagine this kind of start did Machado crack a smile and break the big league cool he wears like a cloak.

"You think about it in the off-season," he said. "This is your goal. You work out. You get ready for this long season. That's when it starts. You anticipate it. You set yourself some goals.

"Then when you're here, it just happens," he said, sounding positively Zen-like at this point. "Just take it day by day, pitch by pitch and out by out. The main thing [is] to go out there and just have fun."

And who's having more fun than Manny Machado? How can you NOT have fun when you're off to such a glorious start, when you're making a game that can make 15-year veterans weep look so easy?

But there it is. Machado is playing the game so effortlessly now, so locked-in at the plate, so smoothly in the field, that he seems almost embarrassed by how well he's doing.

"He's not out there saying 'Look at me!'" left-fielder Nate McLouth said. "It's nothing like that. But you can tell he's confident in himself, as he should be. If he goes a couple games and doesn't swing the bat well, it doesn't get to him and he'll be back the next day. That's tough to do, especially for a young player."

Maybe Showalter's right, though. Maybe we should just shut up about Machado and enjoy the ride he's on.

He sure has been fun to watch.



Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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