Manny Machado Proving to Be the Catalyst the Orioles Need to Make the Playoffs

Christopher BenvieCorrespondent IIAugust 11, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 10:  Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles cleans up after getting a shaving cream pie after a 7-1 victory against the Kansas City Royals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 10, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. Machado hit the first two home runs of his career in the game.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

An injection of youth has come at just the right time for the otherwise stagnant Baltimore Orioles.

The team is already one of the great stories of the year, making a tremendous turnaround from its 20...well, from its roughly 15-year stretch of disappointing seasons.

In 2011, the club finished 69-93, last in the American League East. In fact, they've finished in the basement for five straight seasons and have not placed higher than fourth since 2004, when they finished third.

The last true glorious season for the Orioles was 1997. They finished first in the AL East, but lost the ALCS 4-2 against the Cleveland Indians.

This year, things are different.

The O's are in second place in the AL East with a record of 61-52, 5.5 games behind the New York Yankees. And the reality is, nobody is catching the Yanks in the AL East this season.

More than that, though, the Orioles find themselves leading the extremely tight wild-card race. They share the same record with Detroit (who owns the other wild card slot) and are just 0.5 games up on Oakland and Tampa Bay and just 1.0 game up on the Angels.

The O's needed a boost.

Boost, thy name is Manny Machado.

Though he has only played in his first two games for the Orioles, the 20-year-old third baseman is already having an impact on the field and invigorating the fanbase.

In his eight at-bats Machado is 4-for-8 with a triple, two home runs and four RBI. That's a smooth 1.500 slugging percentage.

His two home runs came last night against the Kansas City Royals. For those keeping score at home, at 20 years and 35 days old, that makes Machado the youngest Oriole ever to have a two-home-run game, breaking the previous mark set by Boog Powell at 20 years and 258 days old.

The reality is, the numbers will obviously fall to earth. But the level of excitement this kid has brought the Orioles is just what the team needed.

Many considered them to be playoff pretenders, but with this youthful injection from Machado, perhaps they could be legitimate contenders. At the very least, they could certainly play the role of spoiler thanks in large part to their rookie sensation.