DETROIT — Orioles manager Buck Showalter shook up the team's late-inning bullpen, at least for one day, by moving All-Star reliever Brad Brach into the seventh inning and giving rookie Mychal Givens the eighth to preserve a 3-1 lead in their win over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.
Showalter said the decision was matchup-based, with Brach, whose second-half swoon continued Friday when he allowed the game-winning home run in the eighth inning, a better fit for the seventh inning Sunday, and nothing more.
"It was a good spot for him," Showalter said. "I liked Mike at the top of the order there, and I liked Brad where they were with the left-handed hitters coming off the bench, potentially. You're picking your poison this time of year. If you bring in Hart, they're going to switch from a left-handed pinch hitter to a right-handed pinch hitter. That's why September baseball is so bogus."
Detroit's lineup had seven right-handed hitters and two switch-hitters, and Showalter feared that bringing in someone so tough on right-handers but vulnerable against left-handers, like Givens, against the bottom of the order might bring about pinch hitters.
The top of the Tigers' order is all right-handers, and all serious threats at the plate: second baseman Ian Kinsler, center fielder Cameron Maybin, first baseman Miguel Cabrera and designated hitter Victor Martinez. None would be substituted, so Showalter swapped the typical order.
Both ended up working out. Brach, who has an ERA of 3.80 since the All-Star break and 1.78 this season, needed 16 pitches for a perfect seventh. Givens ended up pitching himself into and out of a jam. He hit leadoff man and No. 9 hitter Jose Iglesias to open the eighth, then issued a one-out walk to Maybin, but he got Cabrera to ground into a double play to end the inning.
"I know that is probably the best hitter out there in our generation," Givens said of Cabrera. "I just went out there to compete and try to get us out of the inning."
The role reversal flies against their season-long positions, though there's no indication the change is permanent.
Brach pitched the seventh inning often when Darren O'Day had the eighth inning, but in his absence, he's pitched in it 33 times in 62 appearances. Seventeen of Brach's appearances began in the seventh inning.
Givens, meanwhile, has pitched the seventh 22 times in 58 appearances, the most of any inning for him. He's pitched in the eighth inning with a lead of fewer than three runs just once.
However it's managed going forward, no one could deny the gravity of what Givens did when given a bigger role Sunday.
"It's just a confidence boost," said Givens, who lowered his ERA to 3.49. "With how great our bullpen has been all year, that we can do that, to be able to have the confidence of Buck doing that, [is significant]."
"That was big," closer Zach Britton said. "For a young guy in that situation, he hasn't thrown that eighth inning very often. He did a great job. It's a tough lineup, and he battled and made some good pitches. I think it just gives him confidence going forward."