Along with Hardy and Machado, second baseman backs outstanding Gausman
By Ryan Baillargeon
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles' infield put on a defensive clinic in the sixth and seventh inning of Saturday's 5-0 win over the Rays in the first game of the day/night doubleheader.
Whether it was second baseman Jonathan Schoop ranging up the middle to stop a liner that was redirected off the mound, third baseman Manny Machado making a strong backhanded stop and throw across the diamond or shortstop J.J. Hardy picking a sharp one-hopper headed up the middle, the O's infielders filled up the highlight reel.
"I was the best one," Schoop said, laughing. "I pick me over Manny. I'm just kidding."
The case could be made for any of them, but regardless of which one took the top spot on the Orioles' reel, the defense didn't go unnoticed by right-hander Kevin Gausman.
"The biggest thing was that the defense picked me up a lot of the time today," Gausman said. "There was kind of some unreal plays behind me, so that always helps."
By the time Schoop gloved the ball that skipped off the mound with two outs in the seventh, he was in shallow center field behind second base. But he was able to plant his foot and fire a strong throw to first to get Tim Beckham to end the inning.
Schoop said watching Hardy and Machado -- both American League Gold Glove Award winners -- on the other side of the infield has inspired him to improve that part of his game. His play drew praise from Hardy.
"He's ranging a long way to get to those, and they're definitely not routine," Hardy said. "And then to be able to turn around and throw, get that much velocity on it as he's falling away from first base is impressive."
Hardy and Machado's standout plays were the final two outs of the sixth inning, helping Gausman continue a string of 12 straight retired from the fourth to the seventh.
And manager Buck Showalter enjoyed the view from the dugout.
"I can't tell you how many above-average defensive plays there were," Showalter said. "That was fun to watch."
Ryan Baillargeon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.