Every seasoned baseball fan knows what a balk is. There are numerous reasons a pitcher can be called for a balk, ranging from dropping the ball while on the mound to not coming set (when the pitcher brings the ball to the glove and briefly holds it in one spot).
It's not often umpires call these, because MLB pitchers have practiced their windups and motions a million times. That's why what happened in a-bat between Miami Marlins reliever Richard Bleier and New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso Tuesday night was one of the strangest things you'll ever see.
Seriously, what took place was so rare it hasn't been done since at least 1900.
Marlins RP Richard Bleier Balks Thrice, Making History
Richard Bleier has never had a balk called on him in his career. In the 8th inning he had not one, not two but THREE balks called on him
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) September 28, 2022
Bleier faced Alonso with two outs in the bottom of the eighth with his team up 6-3. On his first pitch to Alonso, he was called for a balk by first base umpire John Tumpane for not coming set. He was clearly baffled, but he continued.
Two pitches later, Tumpane called a balk again. Bleier, who had never been called for a balk in a Major League career that has spanned seven seasons and almost 300 innings, couldn't believe it. He voiced his displeasure with Tumpane yet continued as the runner advanced to third.
Again, two pitches later, Tumpane called a balk. Same reason. Same outcome. Runner scores from third. It isn't until Bleier gets a groundout to end the inning that he really lets Tumpane have it, earning an ejection. Marlins manager Don Mattingly was also ejected during the bizarre sequence of events.
The Marlins doing something embarrassing isn't really the news here. It's that what took place is something you, your parents and grandparents have never seen before on a MLB field.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Bleier is the only pitcher since at least 1900 to balk three times in the same at-bat. It's unlikely to ever happen again either, since most pitchers would make a pronounced adjustment, although it appeared Bleier was coming set.
Here are a few more figures to show just how rare this was:
- Bleier is the seventh pitcher to ever balk three times in the same inning. He's the first since Jim Gott did it in 1988, also against the Mets.
- He's the first Marlins pitcher to ever balk thrice in one inning. The franchise has existed since 1993.
- Prior to Tuesday, Bleier had been called for just nine balks in 1,300 career innings in pro baseball (minor leagues and MLB). He had never been called for a balk in the big leagues.
Richard Bleier before Tuesday's game:
15 seasons in pro ball
On Tuesday: 1 inning, 3 balks
If there's an adjustment to be made, I don't think it's his to make.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) September 28, 2022
Last night, Marlins pitcher Richard Bleier became the 7th pitcher to ever balk 3 times in the same inning and the first since Jim Gott did it in 1988, also against the Mets.
Per Elias, he is the only pitcher since 1900 to balk 3 times in the same at-bat. pic.twitter.com/P482crsE9s
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 28, 2022
Since the calls are judgement-based, they aren't able to be reviewed or and any player or coach to argue a balk will be automatically ejected. Bleier disagreed with Tumpane, and he explained to MLB.com what went down after the game.
"In the beginning, he said I didn't come [to a stop], which I clearly disagreed with," Bleier said. "It's the same move I've been doing my entire career. I have never been called for a balk ever. The first one, which I don't think was a balk, I watched the video. After that, they were clearly not balks. Words cannot describe what just happened in that inning."
From Tumpane's view, he didn't see Bleier come set.
"From where I was, I didn't have [Bleier] come to a complete stop before delivering to the plate," Tumpane said. "So I called the balk. It obviously happened again. I tried to give an explanation to clear it up."
The Marlins ended up winning the game, so the calls ultimately didn't matter. But for all you baseball nuts out there, be happy you witnessed history. You'll always remember where you were when Richard Bleier balked three times in one at-bat.
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