WASHINGTON – Manny Machado couldn’t believe it. Two innings after he hit the home run that put the Orioles ahead by a run, Jonathan Papelbon threw his first pitch of his at-bat over his forehead. Two pitches later, Papelbon drilled him in the left shoulder and was immediately ejected.
Both benches emptied and stared each other down after home plate umpire Mark Ripperger threw Papelbon out.
Fortunately, nothing else came of it—except an exciting Orioles win that put them within four games of the wild card with 11 to play.
Machado’s two-run homer off Max Scherzer in the seventh propelled the Orioles to a 4-3 win over the Nationals before 27,991 at Nationals Park on Wednesday night.
The Orioles (75-76) are four games behind Houston and also trail Minnesota by three and Los Angeles by 2 ½ for the final wild-card spot.
Machado kept his cool and didn’t engage with Papelbon, but was seething after the game.
“I mean a 10-year vet, with more than ten years in the game and he’s going to go out there and throw at somebody’s head,” Machado said.
"It’s something that’s uncalled for…It’s something that you don’t do. I expect more from a guy like that with the past that he has.”
Papelbon, the pitcher who allowed Robert Andino’s famous season-ending single in Sept. 2011, left the Red Sox. He’s watched from afar as Machado has become a lightning rod.
“I don’t necessarily think I’m being targeted. I’m going up there making good swings. If people are trying to hit me, it’s part of the game. I’m not worried about getting hit. I’ll take the hits. It’s part of the game. Pitchers out there, the ball can slip out of your hand, but when you throw at the head on first pitch right from the get-go. Then you throw a curveball and then you throw again at the head. That’s just [garbage]. It’s coward stuff. It’s just cowardly,” Machado said.
Papelbon, whose controversial acquisition by the Nationals, hasn’t been a popular or successful move, said he wasn’t throwing at Machado.
“They just said they deemed it intentional. They didn't give me any reason. I don't know if they have to give me a reason or not. But perception is reality. If Manny thinks I hit him, then that's what he thinks. I'm not going to sit here and go back and forth whether I did or whether I didn't, cause it doesn't matter. If he thinks I did, that's what he thinks,” Papelbon said.
“I don't know what's going through his mind right there. All I can tell you is I'm trying to go out there and pitch and do my thing out there, and that's all that really matters. Whether they want to get somebody tomorrow, that's up to them.”
Machado’s home run, his 30th, came with the Orioles behind 3-2.
J.J. Hardy led off the seventh with a double off Max Scherzer (12-12), and two outs later, Machado lined a home run that quickly flew to the left-center field seats.
“It’s one of the hardest balls I’ve hit all year and one of my hardest home runs. It was just a great swing I put on against one of the best in the game right now,” Machado said.
Chris Tillman, who hadn’t won in his last six starts, got the win. Tillman (10-11) pitched six innings, allowing three runs on six hits.
“It was frustrating to begin with. I think the hitters let me know right away it wasn't good enough and I had to start making better pitches and we were able to do that and get to that point in the game where you feel like you've done the job,” Tillman said.
Mychal Givens and Darren O’Day combined for three perfect innings. O’Day picked up his fifth save.
The Orioles (75-76) are one game under .500 for the first time since Aug. 27.
Buck Showalter insists he doesn’t know his team’s standing.
“I haven’t even looked at it. I’m just trying to win every game and see where it takes us. But thanks for telling me now I’ve got to grind on that. I’m trying the ignorance is bliss thing,” Showalter said.
Scherzer walked Chris Davis with two outs in the first, and Steve Pearce hit his 14th home run of the year.
Tillman allowed a leadoff double to Anthony Rendon, and a run-scoring single by Yunel Escobar in the first.
After Bryce Harper walked, Tillman retired 12 straight until Michael A. Taylor walked. Taylor sped home on Wilson Ramos’ double to tie the score. Scherzer singled, and Ramos scored from third on Rendon’s sacrifice fly to give the Nationals (78-73) a 3-2 lead.
COMING UP: Tyler Wilson (2-2, 3.72) faces Tanner Roark (4-6, 4.73) at 4:05 p.m. on Thursday.
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