Brad Ausmus saved his most baffling move for last

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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.

Rob Manfred calls Astros sign-stealing investigation ‘most thorough’ MLB investigation ever

Associated Press
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SAN DIEGO — Commissioner Rob Manfred was asked today about the status of the investigation into the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Manfred said “I think that this is probably the most thorough investigation that the Commissioner’s office has ever undertaken.”

I would assume that construction excludes the Mitchell Report, which was undertaken by an outside party, but I guess it’s still quite a claim.

Manfred said that Major League Baseball has interviewed “nearly 60 witnesses” and has reviewed 76,000 e-mails plus a “trove of instant messages.” He said that they are not done, however, and that the review so far has, “caused us to conclude that we have to do some follow-up interviewing.” He said he cannot predict how long the investigation will take, but “it is my hope to conclude the investigation just as promptly as possible.”

Manfred was asked about the sort of discipline he and his office were contemplating but said, “at this point in the investigation it would be wholly inappropriate for me to speculate” about what discipline was in play.

The investigation comes in the wake of the November 12 report in The Athletic about the Astros’ sign-stealing operation, which allegedly involved use of center field video cameras and the relaying of pitch selection to batters. Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers confirmed the scheme to The Athletic and at least three other Astros employees confirmed it as well.

In the wake of that initial report, video and audio emerged which appeared to confirm the sign-stealing and emails from an Astros executive to scouts, asking them to use cameras and/or binoculars in an effort to steal signs have been uncovered. Major League Baseball has vowed serious punishment for Astros executives, coaches and employees who were involved in orchestrating the scheme and to any players or officials who are found to be untruthful with MLB officials in the course of the investigation.

Initially, Major League Baseball said its investigation would be a wide-ranging one, including multiple teams. Soon after that, however, Manfred controversially backtracked on that, saying instead that the probe would focus only on the Astros. Which, to be sure, is the club against whom current allegations have been lodged and whom many around the game suspect to be the worst offenders. As we have noted, however, it’s highly unreasonable to assume that the Astros are alone in perpetrating a sophisticated sign-stealing operation, as their scheme was allegedly imported by a player who learned it while playing elsewhere.

Either way, it sounds like MLB has a lot on its plate with this. When we know something, you’ll know something.