Machado finding mojo at perfect time for O's

Third baseman hits grand slam to continue second-half surge

Machado finding mojo at perfect time for O's

ANAHEIM -- Manny Machado is back in a big way. And the resurgence of one of baseball's best players is a huge boon for a Baltimore club in the thick of the American League Wild Card race.

Fresh off a four-hit, five-RBI afternoon on Sunday, Machado's tiebreaking, seventh-inning grand slam propelled the O's to a 6-2 series-opening win over the Angels to launch a pivotal three-city West Coast trip.

Grand slams mean 40% off pizza

The 25-year-old Machado batted .230/.296/.445 in 83 first-half games, the most prolonged slump of his career. Since the All-Star break, though, Machado has come alive, going 33-for-95 (.347) and homering in back-to-back games.

"I can't tell you how hard it is to get to where he's got [to] from where he was. It takes a lot of strong constitution to do it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Machado, who has two doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs in his past seven games.

"You go through a period where [you think], 'When is the game going to let me up?' But if you stay true to it and keep working, keep grinding, it will let you up. And Manny's in that groove where he wants some people to pay for his struggles."

Machado's first grand slam of the season came at a critical time. With the scored knotted at 2 after Mike Trout's solo homer in the bottom of the sixth, the O's came out strong with a pair of one-out singles from Welington Castillo and Seth Smith. Angels starter JC Ramirez struck out Joey Rickard and got Adam Jones down 0-2 before hitting him with a pitch to load the bases and bring Machado to the plate.

Machado was also nearly hit by the first pitch he saw before Ramirez put one in his wheelhouse. Machado sent that 1-0 slider screaming into left-center to put the O's up for good. It marked his fifth career grand slam and the O's fourth this season.

"Just staying consistent will always give you a good outcome," Machado said of his power stroke coming along. "Staying consistent with our routine every day. Things [are] starting turning out how I want, hits start falling off. I'm getting a little couple cheap hits instead of hard line-outs I've gotten in the past. Just trying to continue my routine and hopefully things turn around."

Machado -- who also started a terrific double play in the seventh innin -- said he hasn't changed much about his approach at the plate, putting in diligent work with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and hoping that eventually things start to go his way.

Machado starts a 5-4-3 DP

"This has obviously been a learning season for me and I'm going to take everything positively and just learn from this," he said. "This isn't going to be the only time I struggle, but all great players struggle and you have to learn how to deal with it and overcome it."

The O's now sit 1 1/2 games back of the second AL Wild Card spot and are at .500 for the first since June 29. 

"He's not letting things snowball. He may have a couple at-bats with nothing to show for it, but he's still dangerous the next time up. You see him between innings, there's a lot more confidence," Showalter said. "I think the support system [in the clubhouse] is a good one for all our guys, because we are all going to go through those periods."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.