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Orioles' Manny Machado Becomes Center Of Controversy Against Athletics

June 8, 2014

The Orioles took one of three against the American League-best Oakland Athletics during their weekend series, sandwiching a June 7 win between an extra-inning defeat June 6 and a blowout loss June 8. But the outcome of the series took a backseat to several on-field incidents involving O's third baseman Manny Machado.

The first dustup occurred June 6, when Machado took exception to a tag delivered by A's third baseman Josh Donaldson. Though the tag looked innocuous enough, Machado flung his helmet to the ground and jawed at Donaldson, causing both benches to empty onto the field.

After the game, Machado said he had put the incident behind him.

"It is what it is," Machado said. "It's baseball. It's part of the game. Put it in the past and play another game tomorrow."

But that wasn't the end of the story.

On June 8, Machado was at the center of another confrontation with the Athletics. In the bottom of the eighth, with the O's trailing by 10 runs en route to an 11-1 loss, A's reliever Fernando Abad threw an inside pitch near Machado's legs that caused Machado to jackknife out of the way. On the next pitch, Machado swung late at a pitch, and the bat flew out of his hands, down the third-base line.

The A's immediately confronted Machado on the field, thinking he had intentionally thrown his bat at their players. Replays seemed to show that the ball was already in catcher Stephen Vogt's glove when Machado swung and let go of the bat.

Again, the bench-clearing incident managed to resolve itself before any punches were thrown (with an assist from O's first base coach Wayne Kirby, who sprinted to the plate to prevent angry Athletic John Jaso from getting his hands on Machado).

After the game, Jaso expressed his irritation to reporters about Machado's actions.

"There is a certain respect that you have to have for this game," Jaso said, "and it's a blessing for all of us to be where we are. And when I feel like somebody doesn't see that and doesn't respect the game as such, then it doesn't sit well with me, and I really don't like it. … I felt like there was disrespect for the game coming from one player. I think guys like that need to be taught a lesson, because there's millions of other people that would love to have the spot that he has."

A's catcher Derek Norris put it more bluntly, telling Oakland reporters, "What he's doing, I think it's a disgrace to baseball."

Twitter, too, blew up after Machado's outburst, with many Orioles fans expressing their disappointment and anger at what they considered an immature, hot-headed act.

Machado, for his part, told reporters that the bat simply slipped out of his hands. Manager Buck Showalter -- who rarely disparages his players in the media -- publicly backed Machado.

"Two days ago, they had a disagreement over what Manny perceived as something, and I'm always going to support him," Showalter said during his postgame press conference. "And then two days later, in a 10-0 game in the eighth inning, someone decided to do something else. I'll manage my club accordingly, and they can live with their decisions."

Machado was ejected from the game, and MLB is likely to take a long look at the issue. If MLB rules that Machado threw the bat intentionally, he'll likely face a fine and a suspension.

Machado's controversial series added to what has been a frustrating season for him so far. After going 0-for-3 June 8, Machado is batting .235 with a .636 OPS and has committed seven errors. And with his latest actions, Machado may have lost the support of some O's fans.

Here are some other notes about the Orioles' three-game series.

• June 7 and June 8 brought two extremes in O's starting pitching performances. Right-hander Kevin Gausman, back in the majors for the second time this year, gave his finest performance as a professional, holding the A's to one run in seven strong innings. Gausman looked like a different pitcher than he did during his one-game spot start May 14. His fastball was top-notch -- hitting 99 mph on more than one occasion -- and he used his sometimes-spotty secondary stuff to full effect, tying A's hitters in knots with his slider and changeup. Gausman earned his first win as a starting pitcher in the bigs.

• At the other extreme was righty Ubaldo Jimenez, who walked five batters (with the O's allowing 11 walks in all) and gave up six runs in a 2.1-inning debacle June 8, his shortest outing of the year. Jimenez began the game with two scoreless innings, but imploded in the third, walking the bases loaded and serving up a near-grand slam to Jaso that was changed to a double on replay. But Jimenez later gave up a grand slam anyway, with Brandon Moss swatting one three batters later. Jimenez's ERA now sits at 5.01.