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Machado aims for career-defining postseason

Dodgers shortstop lights up LA sky with two-run homer in first inning
October 5, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- Manny Machado's tenure as a Dodger is probably destined to be a short one. He's admittedly still learning names and faces within his own clubhouse. And yet, he's only a few losses -- or nine more wins -- away from becoming a free agent.But Machado is also

LOS ANGELES -- Manny Machado's tenure as a Dodger is probably destined to be a short one. He's admittedly still learning names and faces within his own clubhouse. And yet, he's only a few losses -- or nine more wins -- away from becoming a free agent.
But Machado is also keenly aware of this: If he can help the Dodgers rack up those nine victories -- and their first World Series title in 30 years -- his three months in Los Angeles are going to be remembered for a long time. Forget August and September. Machado's time here will be judged solely by his performance in the postseason.
So far, so good.
:: NLDS schedule and results ::
In Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Friday night, Machado sent Chavez Ravine into a first-inning frenzy when he crushed an Anibal Sanchez cutter into the first row of the left-field pavilion. It put the Dodgers on course for a 3-0 victory and a 2-0 series lead. The way Clayton Kershaw was pitching, Machado's two-run blast was all the offense they'd need.
"Honestly," Machado said, "it's still sinking in. It's been a crazy year."
Crazy, indeed. In mid-July, Machado was playing shortstop for the Orioles, mired in last place in the American League East.
Of course, that kind of moment is precisely why Machado became a Dodger in the first place. He arrived via trade as a replacement for the injured Corey Seager. With Seager destined to return and Justin Turner anchored at third, it's unlikely Machado comes back to Los Angeles next season.
Regardless of how the Dodgers finish, Machado is going to earn headlines this winter. Probably a massive contract, too. But, on the field, at least, October could be a career-defining month for the 26-year-old five-tool superstar.

"Being here in the postseason with this ballclub, I mean, it's been unbelievable," Machado said. "I'm still kind of saying the wrong names around the clubhouse. But I mean everyone's been so, so amazing, the organization, the front office, owners. They've been beyond kind. They've been beyond awesome. And they've definitely made me feel like I'm at home."
It's not the first time Machado has had success against Sanchez. Including Friday's homer, he's now 8-for-17 with four homers against the Braves right-hander. It was Machado's second career postseason home run, and his first since Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS.
Having worked a 3-0 count, Machado turned himself loose. During the regular season, he was one of only six players in baseball to homer multiple times on a 3-0 count.

"If you're going to swing, 3-0, you definitely want to hit it like I did, for sure," Machado said.
Machado leaned over the plate as Sanchez delivered. The veteran dotted the outside corner at the knees. Machado's barrel was there to greet it.
"I want him to swing right there," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "I was hoping he'd get a fastball that he could handle, and I trust that if it's in the strike zone, he could slug it."

Slug it, he did. A young fan named Donovan -- celebrating his birthday at the ballpark -- reached over a staircase railing in the first row of bleachers, and he made the catch.

Afterward, the Dodgers brought Donovan to the entrance of the clubhouse. Machado was there to greet him.
"Man, I'm surprised you caught that," Machado quipped. "I hit that hard."
Machado signed the baseball and posed for pictures with Donovan before heading off to fulfill his media obligations.
As long as he's a Dodger, he might as well author a few postseason memories.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.