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Astros' Ryne Stanek unleashes on umpires after controversial balk call allows Dodgers to score go-ahead run

The eventual game-winning run for the Dodgers was mired in controversy Saturday night when Astros pitcher Ryne Stanek was called for a balk – a call he vehemently disagreed with.

The Los Angeles Dodgers managed to record their 43rd win of the season on Saturday night. But a wild eighth inning, highlighted by a balk call, sparked a considerable amount of controversy.

The Dodgers were trailing by a couple of runs entering the inning, but went on to defeat the defending World Series champion Houston Astros 8-7 after the go-ahead run was scored thanks to a balk call from the second-base umpire.

Ryne Stanek was visibly upset about the call and argued with umpire Junior Valentine. He eventually gathered himself and struck out Michael Busch to end the frame. But, as he headed for the dugout he started yelling and pointing toward Valentine.


Valentine quickly decided to throw Stanek out of the game, which prompted Astros coach Josh Miller to come out of the dugout to try and calm the pitcher down.

But Miller did not have much success, forcing home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez to step in front of an emotional Stanek.


Houston manager Dusty Baker then arose from the visiting team's dugout to argue, and he was also tossed from the game.

"I needed some kind of explanation because Stanek was going ballistic," said Baker.

The 74-year-old manager later added. "Boy, that's a tough way to lose one."

The balk allowed Jonny Deluca to cross home plate, which tied the contest at 7 in the eighth.

Over the year, the balk rule has often caused controversy due to the lack of transparency that comes with the call. In many cases, it comes down to whether the umpires believe the pitcher deceived the baserunner. 

Stanek later revealed that Valentine defended the call by telling the pitcher that his right leg appeared to flinch after he looked in for the pitch.

"He said I moved my leg, which was pretty obvious because I stepped off the mound," Stanek said. "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. I literally was just stepping backward."

Stanek also admitted that he watched the replay. From his point of view, the movement in question did not rise to the level of a balk.

"The move is beyond minor," he said. "I think that's a pretty drastic call to make considering that play right there the umpire decided the game."

Stanek entered Saturday's game with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Aside from Stanek's heated exchange with the umpires, his teammates Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman faced intense boos from the Dodger Stadium crowd. Altuve and Bregman are the last two players on the current Astros 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 championship series.

As Altuve and Bregman stepped to the plated on Saturday night, loud chants of "Cheater! Cheater!" rained down from the Dodger faithful.

In February, the MLB told teams that an emphasis would be placed on umpires properly enforcing the balk rule.

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