Manny Machado is, without a doubt, one of the best defenders in baseball today, manning the hot corner for the Baltimore Orioles like not many in the game can.
It seems like he does something new and impressive on defense every single night, but it's important to appreciate him even when he makes the most difficult plays look routine.
On Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins, Machado was up to his usual antics, robbing a hitter of extra bases in the top of the fifth inning.
As you can see in the video below, Machado moves to his right to make the stop, but the ball kicks out of his glove. He stays calm, plucks the ball from mid-air and fires it over to first to get the out and end the inning:
The play saved the Orioles from falling into a bigger hole, as they already trailed 4-1 and the Twins had runners on second and third. If Machado had simply knocked the ball down, one run would have scored. If the ball got by him, two would have scored.
The Orioles eventually lost the game 4-3, but Machado's play kept Baltimore in the game for a little big longer as they tried to mount a comeback.
After the win, which completed the Minnesota sweep, Twins manager Paul Molitor told reporters (via ESPN.com) that it was frustrating not being able to build up a bigger lead against a high-powered offense like Baltimore's:
"Today, we kind of started fast and had to hang on," Molitor said. "It was a little frustrating we couldn't take advantage and increase the cushion somewhat."
Machado's big defensive play in the fifth inning is exactly the sort of play Molitor was talking about, as the incredible defensive effort took runs off the board for the Twins.
With the win, the Twins improved to an American League Central division best 25-18 record, prompting Orioles manager Buck Showalter to say Minnesota is one of the hottest teams in all of baseball right now:
They're playing as well as anybody in the American League," Showalter said of the Twins.
The Orioles, on the other hand, lost their fourth-straight game, but are still second in the AL East with a 25-20 record. They've lost seven of their last 10 contests, though, and trail the New York Yankees by 2.5 games in the division race.
Though Machado is only hitting .218 this season, he has mashed 10 home runs and has 25 RBI. Combine that with his defensive efforts and he's doing all he can to help the O's break out of their current slump.
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