Bare-handed grabs (yawn!) have become a dime-a-dozen for Machado
Since being called up to the majors in early August of last year, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado has been one of the most exciting players in baseball.
Whether he's hitting doubles at a historic pace or making another sensational bare-handed play to throw out some speedster, he's proven to have quite a flair for the dramatic.
As I'm sure you've noticed, he was at it again yesterday, making arguably the top defensive play of the year. Remember he also turned in one of the top defensive plays of last year as well. This year's version drew instant comparisons to another Orioles third baseman.
Some guy named Brooks Robinson.
Some even went so far as to claim that Robinson could not have made a play like that.
There's definitely been no shortage of highlights during Machado's time in the majors and in celebration of one of the finest young players in the game today, it's time to honor him in the only way befitting his talent.
A video slideshow of his top plays.
Let's get to it!
The very first hit of Machado's career with the O's came in his very first game, and it couldn't have been more exciting.
Say what you will about players hitting a home run in their big-league debuts, but for my money, I'd rather see the most exciting play in all of baseball.
Machado legged out a three-bagger after lacing a liner into the gap in right-center against Royals starter Will Smith. He scored the next play when Nick Markakis drove him home with a sacrifice fly.
Machado picked up his second career hit later that game and the next night set big-league history with a two-homer performance that was one for the ages.
The O's, however, were not victorious in Machado's major league debut.
Machado's 2-for-4 performance in his big-league debut was just the appetizer for what he had up his sleeve in game No. 2.
With the O's up 2-1 in the fifth, Machado slammed a leadoff home run to left field giving the O's a little extra cushion.
The very next inning he came up with two-men on base and he swatted a 1-2 pitch to the same exact spot in left-field for his second career home run and his second of the game. The three-run blast put the O's ahead comfortably, 7-1, in a game they'd go on to win by the same score.
Even more impressive than Machado's aim was the fact that the same fan caught both home run blasts, making it a night two people would never forget.
It's hard to imagine having a better 1-for-4 performance than Machado had on September 12, 2012 against Tampa Bay.
The warmups were the first two plays Machado made on defense, both difficult plays that he made look incredibly easy.
The main dish—arguably Machado's most impressive play, and the most astonishing play of the entire 2012 season, came in the top of the ninth-inning with the score tied. Jeff Keppinger had singled with one out and was replaced by the speedy Rich Thompson on the basepaths. He moved to second on a steal with Evan Longoria at the plate and tried to score all the way from second when Longoria hit a dribbler towards third base.
Machado, aware of Longoria's sneaky speed, didn't have enough time to throw him out and instead engineered an incredible ball-fake that got not only Thompson as he rounded third and headed for home, but also the camera man.
By the time everyone realized what had happened, Thompson was caught in a rundown that ended the inning.
Machado put the nail in the coffin in the bottom half of the ninth, singling and then moving to second on a sac-bunt. He then scored the winning-run on a Nate McLouth single.
It's no surprise that the O's played to the best record in all of baseball after Machado arrived from Double-A Bowie.
During his first month with the big league club, he made several game-winning plays, including one of the top web gems of the year on Sept. 12, but none yet qualified as a true "winning play."
With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 14th-inning, Machado stepped to the plate with two outs and two men on. Facing Rays' fire-baller Chris Archer, Machado, who had gone hitless in his first five at-bats, lined a 3-0 pitch into left-field just in front of the diving Matt Joyce.
Adam Jones, who had walked two batters earlier came home to score easily and give the O's' yet another extra-innings victory.
For his efforts, Machado got a pie to the face.
The O's inexplicably lost their second series of the year, allowing the Twins to take two-of-three at Camden Yards and dropping Baltimore to .500 on the season.
It's hard to blame Machado, though, as he scored three runs and drove in one during the three-game set. He also contributed this gem, a barehanded scoop-and-throw to nab Ryan Doumit at first.
This is the kind of play that has become almost familiar after watching Machado for almost a fulseason now, but it never gets old watching him do his thing.
The O's went on to lose the game 6-5, when Justin Morneau knocked in the game-winning run in the top of the ninth-inning.
The Red Sox took a 5-3 lead into the top of the ninth-inning at Fenway on April 10 and appeared to be well on their way to their second consecutive victory over Baltimore, as well as an early-season series win.
Bringing on their closer Joel Hanrahan seemed like the nail in the coffin.
Only it wasn't.
Chris Davis opened the inning by slugging a solo home run (of course he did) to bring the O's within a run and Alexi Casilla scored on a wild pitch a few batters later tying the score at five.
Then, with Chris Dickerson and Nate McLouth on base, Machado stepped to the plate and launched his first home run of the season, and the eighth of his career. The three-run shot gave the O's an 8-5 lead they wouldn't relinquish and Machado had his first lasting memory of the 2013 season.
The barehanded grab comes with a high degree of difficulty for third baseman.
Machado took it to a whole other level in an early June tilt against Houston by taking ten steps towards the ball, and into J.J. Hardy's territory, before barehanding it and throwing out the base-runner by one large stride.
As any O's fan can attest, Machado makes this kind of play almost on a nightly basis.
What made this particular one stand out was the player who hit it. It was none other than Mike Trout, the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year and owner of one of the most impressive seasons of all-time.
It's a well-documented fact that Trout has blazing speed. He swiped an A.L. best 49 bases last season, including three against the Orioles. He's the kind of player that turns a difficult play for a third baseman into an infield hit.
Not this time, however, as Machado nailed his good friend by a single step.
If the grin after the play was any indication, it felt extra special.
The O's would go on to win this one, 3-2, as Machado added an RBI on a groundout.
As we've established, making the bare-handed play is a piece of cake for Machado.
He decided to up the degree of difficulty on June 28, trying to complete the play despite the ricochet off the arm of pitcher Kevin Gausman.
Well done (click for video of play).
There are so many things that stand out about Machado's most recent gem, detailed here in all it's multiple-view glory.
For starters, there's the fact that he actually bobbled a ball. Doesn't happen often, so don't get used to seeing it. The 21-year old has only committed 11 errors since being called up to the big leagues and has just six so far this season.
Second, there's the recovery. That's the kind of play that 99.9% of third basemen give up on. Eat the ball and hold onto it in order to prevent the kind of damage that might come from trying to force a throw to first base.
Which brings us to the throw.
Who the hell knows how Machado managed to gauge where to aim and how much power to put into the throw, but the most impressive part of the throw, and the whole play really, was how it hit Chris Davis at chest-level. This wasn't a ball that Davis had to scoop out of the dirt and it didn't need two or three hops to make it to first base.
This throw was a true laser.
Brooks Robinson would be proud, and probably a little jealous.
Last but not least, the reaction from Luis Cruz was unforgettable. He truly looked in disbelief that Machado was able to make the play. Little did he know that he didn't...but then he did.