Controversial Balk Call Costs Astros And Fans Are Furious

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers
Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers / Harry How/GettyImages

There's no shortage of tension anytime the Astros visit the Dodgers in LA. Fans are loud, the games are competitive and it's safe to say there's been no love lost since 2017.

Last night's game between the two teams was a classic, in some ways resembling the back and forth battle of Game 5 in 2017.

But all that is being discussed this morning is the controversial balk call that brought home the winning run for the Dodgers. Houston fans are adamant it wasn't a balk. Dodgers fans are insistent that what Stanek did was illegal.

You be the judge for yourself.

Until this sequence, Stanek had never been called for a balk in his career.

Now, it's hard to say the balk won LA the game. The Astros lineup and Ronel Blanco turned the game over to the bullpen with a 7-3 lead in the bottom of the 7th. If this were 2022, you could just call the game right then and there. But in 2023, when everything seems to go wrong, chaos ensued.

Phil Maton gave up a two-run home run to pinch hitter David Peralta. The big fly came off of a first-pitch curveball. Opponents were hitting .138 with a .169 slugging percentage on his curve before the big fly.

Hector Neris ended up throwing one pitch to get the Astros out of the seventh with a two-run lead.

In the bottom of the eighth, Dusty Baker gave the ball to Bryan Abreu to protect a two-run lead. Abreu threw 30 pitches, recorded one out, walked three and surrendered two runs.

Ryne Stanek was given the task of preserving the tie. He struck out David Peralta for the second out of the inning, but on a 3-2 pitch to get out of the inning, Stanek was called for the balk.

He stood in disbelief at the call, and for whatever reason, Dusty Baker didn't leave the dugout to protest the call, only smacking the railing in frustration.

Stanek stayed in to finish the job and after striking out Michael Busch for the third out, Stanek erupted, more than getting his money's worth on the ejection.

Dusty Baker at that point came out and argued and also was ejected.

The Astros went down 1-2-3 in the top of the 9th, losing 8-7. Their record dropped to 41-36, 6.5 games back of the Rangers and 0.5 game back of the final Wild Card spot.

Now, Stanek's balk did not cost Houston the game. Right call or not, they never should have been in the position. Baker gave a four-run lead to a reliever entering the game with a 1.46 ERA and a 2.02 ERA. There should have been no issue in holding the lead.

But in a season where seemingly everything has gone wrong, last night was just the latest example.