Manny Machado was filthy on Sunday in Houston. Usually that word is applied to pitchers when they have nasty stuff. But no, Manny was filthy – literally dirty to the max by the sixth inning.
If there are any remaining concerns about the strength of Machado’s repaired knee, it should be put to rest after the Orioles’ 9-4 victory over the Houston Astros. He led off the third inning by sliding head-first into second base with a double. Manny was soon back on his belly sliding into third base on the front end of a double steal with Nelson Cruz. He then slid feet-first into home on an Adam Jones sac fly.
Though the roof was closed, the field in Houston looked like it had recently been rained upon, and players were skidding here and there. Machado’s feet went out from under him on a grounder to deep third base. The fall was terribly awkward, but Manny jumped to his feet with no ill effects.
But the big moment for Manny Machado was hitting his first career grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning to extend the Orioles lead to a back-breaking 9-1. He hit the pitch from Scott Feldman about as well as one can center a bat on a ball, sending it far over the left-field wall.
So while the Orioles were hitting Feldman for nine runs on 11 hits, Feldman was hitting the Orioles. First it was Machado in the opening inning. But in a potentially season-altering moment on a running fastball thrown high and tight on Cruz, it hit the MLB homers leader on the left hand. The immediate reaction looked very bad. After running the bases, Cruz was taken out of the game and subsequent tests were negative – with Cruz on a day-to-day basis.
With the way the Orioles have often struggled on offense this season, it would be pretty devastating to lose Cruz. At the same time, if Manny Machado is re-gaining his timing at the plate after his injury rehab, this could go a long way toward an enhanced attack – as evidenced so clearly today.
As well, the Orioles really need to see Chris Davis become a familiar force in the lineup. Between the ways he is being pitched this season, his previous oblique injury, and the special defensive shifts being deployed against him, he is far from the player of 2013. I am afraid we might not see that guy again until he learns to hit against the shift, forcing the opposition to play him more straight-up. He did get a grounder into left field for a single on Sunday, though it was off the end of the bat rather than placed intentionally to the opposite field.
The beneficiary of the Orioles’ offensive outburst was, once again, Wei-Yin Chen. He pitched 5.1 innings with one run on four hits and a walk, improving his record to 6-2. Tallying six strikeouts and with his pitch count at 97 with one out in the sixth and a runner on first, Showalter elected to finish out the game with the bullpen. After exiting, I was frankly encouraged to see Chen throw some stuff in the dugout and kick a few things. It is the most emotion and fire I’ve seen from him.
The Orioles are off on Monday. They then finish the road trip with three games against the Rangers. Here is a chance for the Orioles to catch a team while they are down with a lot of injuries, especially to the pitching. And the Birds won’t have to face Yu Darvish, who pitched the Rangers to a 2-0 win over the Nationals on Sunday.
Check back for a preview tomorrow, and probably some thoughts on J.J. Hardy this season.