What the?! Justin Verlander commits the balk of the year
By David Brown
Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander(notes) did a quick bit of thinking — just not quick enough to slip an illegal pitch past the Oakland Athletics. Or the umpires, for that matter.
Behind lefty Dallas Braden(notes) and four relievers, the A's beat the Tigers 6-2 on Saturday night, but not before a moment of levity when Verlander committed the balk of the year.
In the fifth inning, the A's led 3-1, and Daric Barton(notes) was on first having walked. David DeJesus(notes) was batting. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Verlander stepped backward from the pitching rubber, but he found his body in the wrong position for a throw to first base for a pickoff attempt. Instead, he comically short-armed the ball toward home.
It rocketed toward the ground and appeared to hit an unprepared DeJesus on the bottom of his right foot before it rolled to the fence. Umpires called time, and DeJesus lobbied for a HBP. Off he went to first base on his own, but umps were too confused initially to make any ruling.
"What was that?!" Tigers analyst Rod Allen said.
A's manager Bob Geren called it "the strangest thing I've ever seen."
Both managers came out to question the play. Players in both dugouts showed quizzical looks. Verlander tried to hide a grin behind his glove.
So, what did happen?
After a conference, the umpires got it right: Verlander had thrown an illegal pitch. A balk was called, the runner on first base moved to second and DeJesus' at-bat continued. He eventually walked.
Here's Verlander's explanation:
"I went to go pick one and I didn't get my body turned," Verlander said. "The way I thought — and this was all in milliseconds — if I just throw it home, they won't call anything."
Rick Eymer of MLB.com described it fittingly as something suited for a softball game. It resembled a crow hop. The A's didn't know what to think.
"That was the strangest thing I've ever seen," A's manager Bob Geren said. "It took like six coaches to try to figure out what he did."
Verlander found the whole thing funny.
"I saw the video of it and I couldn't help but laugh at myself," Verlander said. "It might be the first time it happened in general. I thought nothing could happen at the plate. It was funny talking to the umpires. They gave me a hard time about it, too."
Rightly so. Verlander got out of the jam in the fifth ("At least I did that right," Verlander said) but ended up taking the loss.