Manny Machado turned and stood in front of his locker, ready to foul off a few more pitches.
He is the villain of October, not that he cares.
He put his hands on his waist and swatted away every inquiry about his reaction to some of the meanest boos ever heard in this land of really nice folk.
“That was a tough loss for us today,” Machado said. “We’re going to have to come back tomorrow and play better baseball.”
Did the relentless boos bother him?
“We lost the game,” he said. “We didn’t really hit. We didn’t execute. We’ve got to do a better job tomorrow. Tomorrow is leave it on the line, and leave everything all on the field.”
He might have been the target of the crowd Friday, but he was not going to give the fans even a hint of additional ammunition for Saturday.
It could be the final day of Machado’s career with the Dodgers.
It will be Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. If the Dodgers win, Machado advances to the World Series. If not, he advances to free agency.
Machado could have shut them up Friday, all of them, the fans who despise him, the opposing players who label him as dirty, the other 28 teams wondering how many hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in a player who says he is “not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle.’”
He could have been the type of player that takes over a big game and lifts his team to victory. He did not hit a ball out of the infield.
In his first at-bat, with a man on first, he struck out.
In his third at-bat, with two on and two out, he represented the tying run. With a clutch hit, Machado could have propelled the Dodgers into a tie, or at least into a close enough game that the Milwaukee Brewers would have had to play the Josh Hader card.
He struck out.
After his final at-bat, an eighth-inning groundout that he actually ran out, the traditionally polite citizens let loose, celebrating what they considered a triumph of good over evil by yelling “Manny sucks.”
The fans had won. Four outs later, the Brewers did too.
“If it’s me out there that they’re booing, that would make me locked in even more,” Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said. “I imagine it’s the same thing for him.
“Manny is good. That stuff doesn’t bother him. He’s going to come out here and do well tomorrow.”
Said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner: “I think he knew what it was going to be coming in.”
The Milwaukee transit agency had needled Machado, in this tweet: “We welcome all Dodgers fans. Please note we keep our buses clean unlike your shortstop who likes to play dirty.”
The Onion, which is a real fake news outlet, spoofed Machado with a story headlined: “Manny Machado Denies Playing Dirty After Late Slide Into Pitcher’s
In his pregame news conference, amid questions about how he had arranged his lineup and how he might deploy his pitching staff, Brewers manager Craig Counsell fielded an etiquette question.
Counsell grew up here, attending many a Brewers game. If he were that kid from Whitefish Bay High School, and not the manager of the Brewers, how would he greet Machado?
He chuckled and hesitated, reaching for another needle from his mental haystack.
On Tuesday, after Machado hooked his foot around that of Milwaukee first baseman Jesus Aguilar, Counsell said Machado had not gone beyond the bounds of playing hard.
“I don’t think he’s playing all that hard,” Counsell said dryly.
So, on Friday, in an apparent search for a safe middle ground between responsibility and open disdain, Counsell said the fan in him would treat Machado thusly: “I would cheer for my own team.”
He grinned, waited a few seconds, and added: “I’m guessing some other people won’t take that view.”
They did not.
The Brewers invite fans to bring in homemade signs — at every game, not just this one — and one read: “My diaper is cleaner than Manny Machado!”
The legendarily hospitable locals — “Midwest nice,” so the description goes — let Machado have it.
The boos were impressively loud and even more impressively sustained, raining down not just upon his arrival in the batter’s box but extending through each at-bat.
Was he at all shaken up by how raucous, and how persistent, the boos were?
“Focus on the game,” Machado said. “Try to go pitch by pitch. Drive in runs. Do what we’ve got to do on the field. We didn’t execute today, so we’ve got to do a better job.”
How much would he love to silence the fans, to break their hearts?
“We just want a W,” he said. “That’s all we want.”
Does he care at all about how they react?
“I’m here to play baseball,” he said. “I’m here to get the W. We didn’t get it today, so we’ll come get ‘em tomorrow.”