Manny Machado returns to hard-hitting ways at home

Manny Machado has had lots of reasons to point to the sky this season. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Just when it looked like Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado had cooled off, he revved it back up again.

Machado snapped his 0-for-17 slump with an RBI double and also hit his second career grand slam in the Orioles’ win over the Chicago White Sox.

Machado was someone who needed a return home in a big way. He’s now hitting .459 (17-for-37) with five home runs and 13 RBIs in nine games at Camden Yards this season.

Both hits came on the two pitches he saw that fall into our “middle-middle” definition (a pitch over the middle-third of the plate, both width-wise and height-wise). Those are the kinds of pitches that most often get hit hard.

It was inevitable that Machado’s brief skid was going to end. Machado was missing on pitches that he usually hits and hits well. Over a four-game stretch he went 0-for-12 against pitches in the lower half of the strike zone or below. Prior to that, he was hitting .404 against them this season.

He has hit in the .270s against such pitches over his career.

For the first month of this season, this has been a better-looking Machado at the plate than the one who finished fourth in the American League MVP voting last season.

What ahs been the difference? Quite simply, he’s consistently hitting the ball hard. Video review credits him with a hard-hit rate of 26 percent, which is 10 percentage points higher than his rate in a 35-home run season in 2015. His seven home runs in 2016 have come on 40 fly balls and outfield line drives. Last year, he averaged a home run for every 7.6 flies and outfield liners.

Machado's hard-hit rate is virtually identical to fellow Beltway star Bryce Harper. Machado ranks eighth in that stat this season.

Machado has a favorable homer-hitting schedule coming up, with Thursday marking the beginning of a 10-game homestand against the White Sox, New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics. Machado has averaged a home run every 19.3 at-bats at home for his career. He has averaged one every 35.6 at-bats on the road.