Yesterday was the first day of the Manny Machado Era, and while the game was a stinker, Manny himself looked quite good. Today is the second day of the Manny Machado Era, and all he did was crush two home runs in back-to-back at bats. I don't know about you guys, but I'm looking forward to seeing what day three of the Manny Machado Era brings us.
On top of Manny's fantastic performance, O's starter Miguel Gonzalez turned in an outstanding game, pitching a career high of eight innings and giving up just one run. If you can find me one person in the world who thought before the season that in August the O's would be led to victory by Miguel Gonzalez and Manny Machado, I will call that person a liar to his face.
After Gonzalez retired the Royals 1-2-3 in the top of the first, the Orioles looked like they might put on a repeat performance of leaving men on base. Nick Markakis started the inning with a walk and Adam Jones hit an infield single, but both runners were stranded. That gave the Royals the opportunity to get on the board first thanks to a Salvador Perez solo homer in the top of the third. I hoped they enjoyed that run, because it was the only one Gonzalez gave them all night.
It didn't take long for the Orioles to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Wilson Betemit, who played first base tonight as part of the Orioles new platoon situation, led off the bottom of the second with a double but it looked like he'd be stranded at third when Nate McLouth and Machado grounded out behind him. But Omar Quintanilla made sure that didn't happen. With a 2-2 count he launched a homer to center field off of Royals starter Luke Hochaver. It was Quintanilla's second home run as an Oriole and the fifth of his career.
That 2-1 lead was all Miguel Gonzalez would need. He got into some trouble in the top of the third inning, giving up two baserunners via a leadoff single and a two-out walk, but he struck out Mike Moustakas to end the inning. Gonzalez would go on to cruise through eight innings which included five innings in which he faced only three batters. His final pitching line was: 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR. He threw 103 pitches, 68 for strikes. On most nights, that'd make him a lock for Most Birdland Player.
But not on this night.
Machado started the bottom of the fifth inning for the Orioles, and after working the count full he crushed a slider to left field for the first home run of his career. And it was NOT a cheap shot.
What a gorgeous swing, am I right? Quintanilla followed the homer with a single, but was stranded as Hochaver retired the next three.
The bats were back in action in the sixth inning. After Adam Jones popped up for the first out, Matt Wieters drew a walk and moved to second when Betemit was hit by the pitch. McLouth doubled to center field on a line drive, knocking in Wieters for the fourth run of the game. With two runners in scoring position, the fans gave Machado a big cheer as he stepped to the plate. Many had to be thinking, as I was, "just a single and you can get two more RBI, Manny." Manny said, "Pshaw," and instead launched an even deeper home run to left field, this one an Earl Weaver special.
The crowd tonight was small, just over 17K, but you couldn't tell by how loud the cheers were as Manny crossed home plate. They continued once he made it to the dugout, and eventually he popped his head out to thank the crowd. Wow, what were YOU doing when you were 20 years old?
That was all the offense on the night, and more than the Orioles needed. Pedro Strop came on to pitch the ninth inning and was just filthy. Two Royals struck out, feebly waving their bats without a chance, and the third grounded out to Strop.
O's win, 7-1. Baseball, man. Baseball.