Machado gets best of Scherzer in key spot

Machado gets best of Scherzer in key spot

WASHINGTON -- For just a few moments in the immediate aftermath of his mammoth home run, Manny Machado stood and admired his work.

With one mighty swing in the seventh inning, the 23-year-old sent a 98-mph fastball from the Nationals' Max Scherzer deep into the D.C. night, seizing the lead for Baltimore in a 4-3 win that tightened the O's deficit to four games in the American League Wild Card race.

"I finally got a good pitch to hit, and I drove it," said Machado after his 30th home run. "I think it's been the hardest ball I hit all year, 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."

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Machado on win over Nats

In fact, with an exit velocity of 114.68 mph, per Statcast™, it was the second-hardest ball Machado has hit this season, but it carried far more impact than the 114.93-mph double in late May that tops the list.

After watching the ball touch down in the left-center-field seats at Nationals Park, Machado resumed his journey.

"The dugout pretty much erupted," starting pitcher Chris Tillman said. "It was awesome, especially with the starter still out there. To get back on top and get us back in the game, it was a big swing."

The drama surrounding Machado on Wednesday night wasn't through, however.

When he stepped into the batter's box in the ninth inning, the 4-3 lead he provided still intact, Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon immediately pushed Machado off the plate with a fastball up and in. Understanding the intent of the pitch, Machado collected himself before stepping back in the box and taking a curveball for strike one.

Papelbon gets ejected in 9th

Then, there was another fastball more up and more in that caught Machado on the front shoulder, and Papelbon was immediately ejected.

"It's part of the game. If you can't take the heat, just stay out of the kitchen and just go on from it," said Machado. "You don't throw at somebody's head. I think that's [garbage]. I think we've just got to keep playing baseball."

The benches emptied, and Machado and Papelbon exchanged words, but the situation calmed shortly thereafter. Machado trotted to first, and three defensive outs later, the Orioles had secured the second game of the Battle of the Beltways.

"If I go out there and do something that I'm not supposed to be doing, I'm going to hurt the team -- not myself, but hurt the team -- and that's something I don't want to do," Machado said. "You gotta be smart in the situation. We have a long-term goal here. We're trying to make the playoffs. We're in the running. We've got to just keep playing baseball. That was my whole thought process."

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.