When going against a bonafide ace like Clayton Kershaw, you have to find any small advantage you can get.
In the case of Dusty Baker and the Nationals, that means exploiting what they believe to be a small weakness he has when trying to hold baserunners. The Nats’ skipper told reporters before Game 1 of the NL Division Series that he believes the umpires need to watch Kershaw’s delivery from the stretch closely.
“Quite frankly, I’m hoping that the umpires…might call a balk or two on him,” Baker said. “Because he kind of rolls through the set position, which they don’t call.”
Once a manager throws that out there, of course, it’s bound to get to the other team. When Los Angeles skipper Dave Roberts was given a chance to respond to Baker’s comments, he countered by throwing out names of Nats pitchers who he thought balked without punishment.
Told of Dusty's comment on Kershaw balks, Dave Roberts said, "I didn't know Dusty wanted to play that game," then listed some Nats who balk.— Alex Putterman (@AlexPutterman) October 7, 2016
Dave Roberts suggests the umpires should watch Mark Melancon, Shawn Kelley and Scrabble for balks. #BalkGate— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) October 7, 2016
Perhaps pregame chatter about balks won’t amount to much after first pitch, and it was all said in good fun. But it could be something to watch — once the Nats find a way to get on base against Kershaw, that is.
“I heard that really upsets him if they do call one," Baker said. "So I’m hoping that they call maybe a couple of them.”