It's only natural that Manny Machado drew comparisons to Brooks Robinson upon debuting with the Baltimore Orioles as a third baseman. What's impressive though is that he's actually doing his part to live up to the lofty expectations that go along with such comparisons, especially on the defensive side.
A little over a year ago, Machado really caught our attention with an amazing play at Yankee Stadium that looked like it came directly from Robinson's classic highlight reel. With his momentum taking him away from the field, Machado flagged a ground ball down and gathered himself to make a strong and accurate throw from deep into foul territory.
That was a jaw-dropper because there just aren't too many players who can pull that play off so smoothly at game speed. Machado can, and on Wednesday night he made a nearly identical play during Baltimore's 4-3 victory against the Los Angeles Angels, which basically reconfirmed what we already knew: Machado's an elite defender with perhaps no equal at the hot corner.
Granted, this play happened with Albert Pujols running down the line. If he's not the slowest regular currently in baseball, he's among them, thanks to years of wear and tear. He's also not the smoothest runner based on that awkward feet-first slide into first well after he was out. But it doesn't matter who's running on a play like this, it was just a special effort and a remarkable show of athleticism that few in the game can match.
It was an important play for a couple different reasons. First, at the time, starter Kevin Gausman had a perfect game bid going for Baltimore. That made it 12 up and 12 down. He ultimately got to 14 straight retired before walking the bases loaded and allowing a two-run single to Chris Iannetta. Second, with Baltimore holding on to win by one, any extra baserunner could have made a difference, especially considering how quickly things spiraled for Gausman in the fifth.
If that weren't enough, Machado also made a nice play to get the final out of the game. Machado was forced to charge a Howie Kendrick dribbler and made a strong throw with his momentum coming forward. It wasn't as difficult as the first play, but he made it look easy while showing off his range and his ability to move in all directions.
The lesson to be learned: If you're going to beat Manny Machado, you'll have to do better than the Angels on Wednesday night.
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