Ump Job: Marlins pitcher called for 3 balks in the same inning

Miami Marlins pitcher Richard Bleier got called for three balks in the same at-bat against the New York Mets on Tuesday night.

Miami Marlins pitcher Richard Bleier got called for three balks in the same at-bat against the New York Mets on Tuesday night. He’s the only player since 1900 to do so, and he wasn’t even aware of the balking.

In a tweet, one of the supposed balks was shown with a lot of heat thrown toward the umpire. Bleier, visibly frustrated, questioned the call as Mets fans in the crowd cheered for it. He had never been called for a balk in his entire career, and he was suddenly called for three in one at-bat.

Bleier spoke out on the matter to ESPN and stated, “Words cannot describe what happened in that inning on my end. I don’t know. It was wild.”

Marlins manager Don Mattingly appeared to be even angrier than Bleier and was ejected from the game after arguing with the entire crew of umpires.

“I know I’m gone the minute I walk out of the dugout. It’s just ridiculous,” Mattingly told ESPN. “I guess you see something new every day in this game, and that was new for sure.”

Despite so many balks, the Marlins still managed to pull off a 6-4 win.

Marlins trump Mets despite costly balk calls against Richard Bleier

Balks, or illegal pitching motions intended to throw off baserunners looking to steal, can be difficult to challenge because they are subjectively determined. Balks can make the runners believe the pitcher is about to throw the pitch, prompting them to sprint for a base while the pitcher still wields the ball and can easily throw them out.

Bleier’s pitches, however, didn’t look like balks, according to MLB analyst Harold Reynolds. Reynolds referenced 1988, a year in which balk calls spiked and conversations about what constituted as a “discernible movement” came to the forefront.

“That’s what makes tonight so out there because nobody’s calling balks like this,” Reynolds said on MLB Network. “To me, if I’m a baserunner, I don’t think he’s stopping.”

Reynolds does note that he pauses for one of his pitches, then continues:

“But you can make the argument that he never stops. You clearly can, I understand it. But the frustration I’m sure for him, and the Marlins, and maybe anybody else in baseball is they never call it. Why now? Here we are in the last two weeks of the season, and now you’re getting this call.”

“It’s the same move I’ve been doing for 300 innings, and here we are,” Bleier said after the game. “Maybe I was balking. I watched the video. I completely disagreed, but I’m biased, so I don’t know.”

Even though there was a pause in Bleier’s motion, it’s not something that many fans, analysts or even other umpires throughout the season have considered a balk. Mercifully, the controversial calls didn’t cost the Marlins the game.

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