With the game on the line and an opponent in scoring position, first-year Texas Rangers pitcher Keone Kela made a mistake that cost his team Thursday night’s game against the Dodgers.

In the bottom of the ninth with Jimmy Rollins at the plate and pinch runner Kike Hernandez on third, home plate umpire Marvin Hudson and first-base ump Jim Joyce called Kela for a balk after a slight but noticeable twitch of the shoulder while preparing to throw.

Kela’s balk brought Hernandez home and sealed a 1-0 win for the Dodgers. 

Hernandez, a fellow rookie, told the Associated Press (h/t USA Today) he faked a run to home in the hopes of disrupting Kela’s concentration—and the ploy worked.

“I just tried to do something to distract the pitcher,” Hernandez said. “I faked him, and he fell for it.”

Rangers manager Jeff Banister knew his pitcher had committed the infraction and accepted the call on the field.

“I didn’t need for them to tell me. We could see it,” Banister said. “You could see [Hernandez’s] little fake-break down the line, and you saw the little shoulder turn by Leone (sic). It was a balk.”

Yep. Rules are rules, and although Kela’s balk amounted to little more than a nervous shudder, it’s enough to count as a break in his approach.

According to the MLB, the Dodgers’ 1-0 win marks the first time in at least 42 seasons a team has won a game with the lone run coming on a balk.

So yes, this is clearly not Kela’s finest moment.

On the other hand, the 22-year-old has fared decently in his first season as a major leaguer. He’s 4-4 on the mound so far and recorded his first MLB save Wednesday against the Dodgers despite being thrust into the role of closer.

So chin up, Kela. And keep a stiff upper arm.


Dan is on Twitter. He thinks balk is a funny word. 

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