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Astros Reliever Melts Down After Balk Call Gives Dodgers Game-Winning Run

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 24: Ryne Stanek #45 of the Houston Astros reacts to a balk call from second base umpire Junior Valentine #25 as he comes off the field, allowing Jonny Deluca #89 of the Los Angeles Dodgers to score a run for an 8-7 Dodgers lead, after the end of the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium on June 24, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Astros and Dodgers played a wild one on Saturday afternoon, with the Dodgers notching three runs in the bottom of the eighth en route to a dramatic 8-7 win. While all three were charged to Bryan Abreu, the game-winning run was really allowed by Ryne Stanek, the most middle-reliever-looking middle reliever in the league. He inherited runners on second and third with one out, struck out David Peralta, then faced Miguel Rojas for what turned out to be a disastrous moment for the Astros.

Before throwing a full-count pitch to Rojas in front of a roaring L.A. crowd, Stanek twitched his right leg and stepped off the mound, prompting umpire Junior Valentine to call him for a balk, allowing Jonny Deluca to score. Stanek was baffled.

After walking Rojas then striking out Michael Busch to end the inning, Stanek let Valentine have it, melting down on the field and getting ejected within seconds. Astros pitching coach Josh Miller and plate umpire Manny Gonzalez held Stanek back as an impassive Valentine folded his arms and looked on; Houston manager Dusty Baker left the dugout and got himself ejected. All in all, a pretty solid baseball meltdown.

"The move is beyond minor," Stanek said after the game. "I think that's a pretty drastic call to make considering that play right there the umpire decided the game." The reliever, who had never been called for a balk before in his career, claimed he was not yet set and was simply stepping off the mound.

"He said I moved my leg, which was pretty obvious because I stepped off the mound. Beyond that, I wholeheartedly disagree. A balk is intentionally trying to deceive a runner. At what point was I trying to deceive a runner? I hadn't even come set yet."

Baker echoed his reliever's frustrations, saying he thought the step-off was an innocent adjustment. "I needed some kind of explanation because Stanek was going ballistic," Baker said.

Losing a game in this way stinks, but also, Stanek did balk. Too bad! If you're a member of the Astros, playing against the Dodgers, you are not allowed to lodge any complaints about the rules. The home fans enthusiastically jeered the last two Astros holdovers from the cheating-ass 2017 World Series team any time they were at the plate, but it was pretty ineffective—Alex Bregman smacked a grand slam in the fifth. Neither Stanek nor Baker were on that infamous squad, but they set up the humbling the crowd so dearly desired.

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