Column: With the same first name and shorter braids, Manny Machado will try to rewrite the original ending to Mannywood


The hair braids are shorter. There’s a slight smile instead of roaring laughter. A cool stride has replaced the rambunctious swagger.

This version of Mannywood is more understated than the original by several orders of magnitude. The current protagonist isn’t cracking jokes about appearing on Spanish-language soap operas. He certainly isn’t renaming this city after himself within a few months of his arrival.

What Manny Machado does share with his predecessor is his ability to change the game with a single stroke of his Rawlings bat.


The on-field results are similar. A baseball deposited in the bleachers, screaming fans standing and deliriously waving blue promotional towels over their heads.

And if the kind of signature moment he produced Friday night can be replicated enough times over the upcoming month, Machado can do what even the magical Manny Ramirez failed to do here a decade earlier — deliver a World Series to Los Angeles.

Machado’s two-run home run in the first inning opened the scoring and established the tenor for a 3-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves that extended the Dodgers’ lead in the best-of-five National League Division Series to 2-0.

“Just excited we got the lead right away,” Machado said.

Ask any player, coach or manager who visits Dodger Stadium and they will tell you about the importance of taking the crowd out of the game early. When the fans here are lively, the environment can feel overwhelming for visitors. And that was the very atmosphere Machado created when he demolished a cut fastball delivered by the crafty Anibal Sanchez.

History was on Machado’s side. In his previous 15 at-bats against Sanchez, he collected seven hits, including three home runs.

“I’m just patient enough and try to see a good pitch to drive,” Machado said.

With two outs and Joc Pederson standing on third base in the bottom of the first, Machado worked the count to 3-0. He didn’t look to the Dodgers’ bench for instruction.


“I mean, the situation of the game speaks for itself,” he said. “First inning, you want to get on the board first.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker assumed Sanchez would walk Machado and didn’t signal for him to issue a free pass.

“That’s my fault right there,” Snitker said.

In Snitker’s defense, Sanchez threw a pitch that was hard to reach — a cutter that moved away from Machado.

“A great pitch,” Machado said.

“Most guys don’t get that ball,” Snitker said.

Machado did more than reach it. He lined it into the left-field pavilion for a 2-0 lead.

Ramirez, who carried the Dodgers into the 2008 postseason after his trade from the Boston Red Sox, once playfully said about his impending free agency, “Gas is up and so I am.” Machado will be on the open market this winter and while he hasn’t made any declarations that would rival Ramirez’s in audacity or cleverness, he has incorporated the same basic

message in his home run celebrations.

As Machado rounded third, he rubbed his index and middle fingers on both hands with his thumbs, basically saying, “Pay me.”

The rocket provided a much-welcomed two-run cushion for Clayton Kershaw. The left-hander said the previous day that he didn’t have to prove anything, but the reality was that he wasn’t pitching only to give the Dodgers a 2-0 advantage. He was pitching to protect his reputation after being unceremoniously stripped of his status as the team’s Game 1 starter.


“Manny hits the home run right there, right in the bottom of the first, and from there, it’s just my job to try and protect that lead as best I can,” Kershaw said.

This was the impact the front office hoped for when it acquired Machado from the Baltimore Orioles in mid-July. And this was the moment Machado himself envisioned after missing the postseason in four of the previous five years.

“Now, being here in the postseason with this ballclub, it’s unbelievable,” Machado said.

The Dodgers have used him in ways not even he could have imagined. Over the final week or so of the regular season, with the Dodgers locked in a dead heat with the Colorado Rockies that required a 163rd game to decide the NL West championship, Machado was moved into the cleanup spot for the first time in his career.

In his nine games batting fourth, Machado hit .343 with two home runs and 10 runs batted in. In the penultimate game of the season, he broke a 5-5 stalemate in San Francisco with a two-strike, two-out double in the eighth inning. He finished the regular season with 37 home runs, including 13 for the Dodgers.

Machado has remained the team’s No. 4 hitter in the postseason and embraced the heightened emotions of October baseball. He has taken in a lot of change over the last 21/2 months, starting with the trade from the only franchise for which he had previously played.


“It’s still sinking in,” he said.

Machado mentioned that he hasn’t had enough time to learn everyone’s name and sometimes addresses people in the clubhouse incorrectly.

“It’s been a crazy year,” he said.

The really crazy part, the part the older and crazier Manny was never able to experience here, could still be ahead.

Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez