The Los Angeles Dodgers managed to record their 43rd victory of the season on Saturday night. But a wild eighth inning, highlighted by a balk call, sparked considerable controversy.
The Dodgers trailed by a couple of runs to start the inning, but defeated the defending World Series champion Houston Astros 8-7 after the go-ahead run was scored on the umpire’s ruling. second base.
Ryne Stanek was visibly upset by the call and argued with referee Junior Valentine. He eventually got himself together and struck out Michael Busch to end the frame. But, as he made his way to the dugout, he started yelling and pointing at Valentine.
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Valentine quickly decided to take Stanek out of the game, prompting Astros coach Josh Miller to come off the bench to try to calm the pitcher down.
But Miller wasn’t very successful, forcing home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez to stand in front of an emotional Stanek.
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Houston manager Dusty Baker got up from the visiting team’s dugout to argue, and was also ejected from the game.
«I needed some kind of explanation because Stanek was freaking out,» Baker said.
The 74-year-old manager added later. «Wow, that’s a hard way to lose one.»
The balk allowed Jonny Deluca to cross home plate, tying the game at 7 in the eighth.
Throughout the year, the balk rule has often caused controversy due to the lack of transparency that the call entails. In many cases, it comes down to whether the umpires believe the pitcher misled the runner.
Stanek later revealed that Valentine defended the call by telling the pitcher that his right leg seemed to jerk after looking up at the pitch.
«He said I moved my leg, which was pretty obvious because I came off the mound,» Stanek said. «Beyond that, I wholeheartedly disagree. A balk is intentionally trying to fool a runner. At what point was he trying to fool a runner? He hadn’t even gotten there yet. He was literally going backwards.»
Stanek also admitted that he watched the replay. From his point of view, the move in question did not rise to the level of a balk.
«The movement is more than minor,» he said. «I think it’s a pretty drastic decision considering the play right there the referee decided the game.»
Stanek entered Saturday’s game with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
In addition to Stanek’s heated exchange with the officials, his teammates José Altuve and Alex Bregman faced intense boos from the Dodger Stadium crowd. Altuve and Bregman are the last two players on the Astros’ current roster who also played on the controversial 2017 World Series team.
The Astros became the subject of a sign-stealing scandal that year and defeated the Dodgers in the ALCS.
As Altuve and Bregman approached home plate Saturday night, loud chants of «Cheater! Cheater!» it rained down on the Dodgers faithful.
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In February, MLB told teams that emphasis would be placed on umpires properly enforcing the balk rule.