He put the game into the hands of Hernan Perez.
Setting the scene: Balitmore up on Detroit 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth. One down, the tying run is on second and Orioles manager Buck Showalter has chosen to have closer Zach Britton intentionally walk Nick Castellanos to set up the double play with the Tigers’ eighth and ninth hitters coming up.
Shortstop Andrew Romine, a switch-hitter, was due up next. Romine isn’t known for his bat, but he hit .333 in 54 at-bats against left-handed pitching this year. He’s hit .310/.333/.368 in 87 career at-bats as a right-handed hitter. He had grounded into just one double play as a righty.
That wasn’t good enough for Brad Ausmus.
Instead of sticking with Romine, Ausmus opted to send up reserve infielder Hernan Perez, a 23-year-old who had just five regular-season at-bats this year. Perez had hit .194/.211/.250 in a scant 36 career at-bats against lefties, most of them coming in 2013. He hit an unexceptional .274/.311/.384 in 164 at-bats versus lefties in Triple-A this year.
I guess what it came down to was that Ausmus preferred what he saw from Perez in his at-bat against Britton in Friday’s loss. Perez grounded out against Britton in the ninth inning that day, and Romine struck out afterwards.
But Perez entered today with a total of three at-bats in the last month. He was a complete non-factor after getting called up in September. Coming up with a hit in a big situation against one of the league’s best closers would have been a Herculean effort for a kid with three at-bats in a month. Most likely, Romine would have made an out, too, but he has a good track record against lefties and he’s been getting steady at-bats of late (he was 2-for-11 in the LDS). There wasn’t any good reason to make that switch, except for Ausmus feeling some extraordinary need to make a move and have an effect on the game.
Perez, of course, grounded into a series-ending double play. And, whether it’s entirely deserved or not, many will remember this series for Showalter managing circles around Ausmus when it counted.