Detroit – Andrew Romine’s head and heart were in the right place Sunday. His bat angle, however, not so much.
The Tigers had already scored four runs and cut a seven-run deficit to three when Romine came to bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning. The Royals had brought in a new pitcher, side-arming Peter Moylan.
Romine stepped into the left-handed batter’s box and saw Royals third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert playing back, well behind the bag at third.
What Romine did next drew the ire of Tiger Nation, and befuddled his manager. Romine squared to bunt, trying to push one up the third-base line. Instead, he knocked it right back to Moylan, who made an easy force out at the plate.
“I thought it was the right move, but only because the third baseman was back,” Romine said before the game Monday. “If he would have been playing normal depth, I would have just taken my swings.”
Ausmus said he planned on discussing the issue with Romine after batting practice Monday. He said he would not comment publicly on what he thought of the play.
“If I get on, get a run in and bring the top of our lineup up, with (Ian) Kinsler, I don’t think anybody would be questioning me there,” Romine said. “I just bunted it in the wrong direction.”
Romine said his decision to attempt a bunt had nothing to do with Moylan.
“He’s got to throw the ball over the plate, just like anyone else,” he said.
But, Romine was in a 0-for-11 skid at the time. When he saw Cuthbert playing deep, he perhaps thought his odds of getting on base were best with the bunt.
J.D. Martinez was the runner at third. Romine said it didn’t matter whether Martinez was clued in to the bunt or not, and he’s right. With two outs and the bases loaded, Martinez would be moving immediately on anything hit.
And if Romine had put the bunt where he intended, Martinez would have scored easily.
Only because of the unusual nature of the play does it lend itself to second-day scrutiny. It happened in the third inning of a 12-9 loss. It was not the play that broke the Tigers’ backs. The Royals re-established a five-run lead the next inning, scoring two off Shane Greene.
Romine has been one of the unsung heroes of this season for the Tigers. He has performed admirably all over the field – center field, which he’d never played before this season, and all four infield positions.
He’s also contributed offensively, especially immediately after Nick Castellanos went down with a broken hand. From Aug. 24 through Sept. 22, when he made 14 starts and played in 19 games, he hit .333 with a .393 on-base percentage and a .805 OPS.
One impromptu bunt attempt should not define his season.