via Texas Rangers
BALTIMORE — Sunday’s 6-5 first-half-sealing win over the Rangers could have been a feel-good occasion for the Orioles, a positive way to close a mostly miserable first half for a last-place club. But the team’s first back-to-back wins at Camden Yards — and first series win at home since May 13 — wasn’t about the on-field play. It was about the guy in the dugout.
Shortstop Manny Machado, who was removed for precautionary reasons following a 36-minute rain delay, watched the second half of the game in a sweatshirt, leaning on the home dugout railing. The biggest trade chip in advance of July 31’s non-waiver Trade Deadline will represent Baltimore on Tuesday in the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. How long after that remains the O’s largest looming question.
“We’re all adults here, some more than others. We know what’s going on, the potential. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that [the rain] was all of it,” manager Buck Showalter said of the decision to take out Machado. “My thought on that is, What are you telling the other eight people?’ Obviously there’s a different situation going on with Manny. You all know that. That had a lot to do with it.”
Machado, who said he was surprised when he was removed, spoke to Showalter during the rain delay and again after the game.
“He just said, ‘I’m going to take you out,'” Machado said. “‘You had a good first half and go represent us well in the All-Star Game.'”
When Machado was replaced in the field in the top of the fifth inning following the delay, a trade seemed like a natural possibility. But there was no deal Sunday, just a clear message that the Orioles will exercise extreme caution with their star. It also perhaps tips the club’s hand, as you have to wonder how long the Orioles can protect Machado from things like sloppy field conditions when he’s their everyday shortstop, while every game he plays for Baltimore is less his time he would play with a contender.
“I can’t really say,” Showalter said, when asked if Machado — assuming he’s not traded by Friday — will continue to be handled with extreme caution. “There are variables that play into each day and I take the variable and how it correlates to each day and see where we are. Dan [Duquette, the O’s general manager] and his group are working very hard on a lot of things to make us better today and down the road, and the timing of that is always a challenge.”
Machado did homer before his afternoon ended, hitting his 24th of the year in the first inning off Rangers starter Mike Minor to put the O’s on the board. Down four immediately on Ronald Guzman’s grand slam off Miguel Castro, Adam Jones gave Baltimore the lead with a bases-clearing double as part of a five-run third.
Closer Zach Britton — another trade candidate — picked up his second save of the series, pitching on back-to-back days for the second time since coming off the disabled list last month. Britton got two quick outs before issuing a walk to Shin-Soo Choo. Elvis Andrus doubled but the Orioles were able to nab pinch-runner Carlos Tocci at the plate to preserve the win.
Whether it will be the final one Machado sees in the black and orange remains to be seen.
“Just looking back at everything that’s happened this year, trade rumors, everything, just overall playing with this team has always been incredible,” Machado said, when asked to reflect on the possible finality of Sunday’s game. “Whether we’ve had our ups and downs this year, it is what it is. Me putting up the numbers I did at shortstop, where people didn’t think I should have made the move in my walk year, but I did. I’m going to the All-Star Game as an Oriole and as a shortstop. It’s just always a blessing. I thank God, I thank my family for always supporting me, my teammates, the fans, the organization, I mean, it’s just been very incredible.”