BALTIMORE — In the end, Dustin Pedroia might have been spooked as much as he was spiked.
While several Boston Red Sox players and even manager John Farrell seethed late Friday night over a hard, high slide into second base by Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado, Pedroia walked through the clubhouse gingerly but without a limp or a noticeable scrape on the back of his left calf. Although the Red Sox second baseman surely will be sore Saturday morning, there’s also a decent chance he’s back in the lineup in the evening, lucky to escape a serious injury after having his surgically repaired knee jarred on the play.
But even if there wasn’t much harm to Pedroia, don’t think for a second that the Red Sox will excuse what they perceive to be a foul by Machado.
If not for the fact that knuckleballer Steven Wright is scheduled to start Saturday night, Machado might be wise to duck when he steps into the batter’s box in the first inning. Never mind that Machado insisted his wipeout slide “wasn’t intentional” and said he reached out to Pedroia by text message to make sure he was OK. In baseball, if you’re going to take somebody out, especially a player who is the heart and soul of his team, be prepared for retaliation.
The Red Sox chose their words carefully after Friday night’s 2-0 loss in the opener of a three-game series. Pedroia claimed he saw the replay only once and on the center-field video screen as he struggled to get to his feet and said “it’s my job” to take hits while trying to turn a double play. Farrell, meanwhile, described the slide as “extremely late.” Asked if he thought it was dirty, he repeated, “It was a late slide.”
But all you had to see to know what was on the Red Sox’s minds was the group of players and coaches huddled around a computer screen and watching a frame-by-frame replay of Machado’s slide. And make no mistake, it wasn’t simply to gauge the legality of the play according to the rule governing slides at second base that was instituted before last season.
“I don’t know if [Machado] tried to mean any harm at all, but he definitely went past the bag,” Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly said. “I don’t know if it was late. I was just seeing where the ball was going to be for a double play. I just saw him go past the bag and Pedroia fall down. You get taken out on a double play. It doesn’t happen much anymore.”
Said shortstop Xander Bogaerts: “It was a hard slide. He passed the base, if you’re asking me, and he injured the leader of our team.”
There’s already no love lost between the Red Sox and Orioles, division rivals with playoff-caliber rosters who are expected to duke it out again this season for AL East supremacy. Just last week, Orioles manager Buck Showalter seemed to mock the Red Sox for the attention they received over a flu virus that ran through the clubhouse and ravaged the roster, causing several players to be quarantined.
“The Red Sox are the only ones who have it, huh?” Showalter said. “I didn’t know that. Nobody else has it? No, everybody in the whole league’s got it. It seems to get broadcast more here.”
Farrell didn’t take kindly to that jab and said he merely was answering questions about why players were absent from the lineup. At various times during a four-game series in Detroit, the Red Sox played without flu-ridden right fielder Mookie Betts, designated hitter Hanley Ramirez, utilityman Brock Holt, Kelly and reliever Robbie Ross Jr.
Machado’s slide, intentional or not, only adds more fuel to the fire. And with two games remaining in this weekend’s series, an eruption might be forthcoming.
With Machado on first and nobody out in the eighth inning, Mark Trumbo hit a slow roller to shortstop. Pedroia took the throw from Bogaerts on the outfield side of second base. The lateness of Machado’s slide could be debated, unlike the fact that his spikes were higher than normal and he made contact with Pedroia.
“I’ve turned double plays in the big leagues for 11 years,” Pedroia said, playing off the incident as nothing out of the ordinary. “That’s my job. That’s not the first time I’ve been hit. It won’t be the last.”
Farrell objected to the slide, believing Machado inhibited Pedroia’s attempt to turn a double play. But the umpires wouldn’t permit a challenge, leading Farrell to conclude that “the rule failed tonight.” After the inning was over, irate Red Sox third-base coach Brian Butterfield was ejected for yelling at third-base umpire Alan Porter.
“I don’t even know what the rule is,” Pedroia said. “I’ve turned the best double play in the major leagues for 11 years. I don’t need the f—ing rule, let’s be honest. The rule is irrelevant. The rule is for people with bad footwork, and that’s it.”
Machado is no stranger to controversy. In 2014, he was suspended five games for throwing his bat in the direction of third base after being brushed back by two consecutive pitches by then-Oakland A’s reliever Fernando Abad, who just so happens to be with the Red Sox now. And last season, Machado charged the mound against late Kansas City Royals starter Yordano Ventura and received a four-game suspension.
“I was trying to get on the bag,” Machado said, defending his slide. “I don’t wish bad upon nobody. I don’t want to go out there and hurt someone.”
Maybe not. In the end, though, Machado’s intentions probably don’t matter, his actions serving only to make the Red Sox-Orioles rivalry even hotter.