Balk ‘Epidemic’ Hits Red Sox

BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Red Sox have had a bit of a problem with runners on …

… with runners on base the past week.

Red Sox pitchers have been called for four balks in the last week, highlighted by three in their 2-1 loss to the Rays in Tampa on Wednesday night.

“I don’t get it,” manager Bobby Valentine said after the loss, shaking his head. “It’s like an epidemic.”

The balk rule has been around since 1898, and in a nutshell, can be called whenever the pitcher makes any motion that may trick or deceive runners on base. Whether it is intentional or not does not matter. There are numerous violations, as listed in the MLB rule book, and on Wednesday, the Sox committed three of them.

First up was Clay Buchholz, who balked in a run in the second inning to give Tampa a 1-0 lead.

Buchholz became the second Sox pitcher in the last nine days to balk in a run for Boston. With runners on the corners, Buchholz got caught in between the old “fake-to-third-throw-to-first” move that will soon be termed a balk anyways.

“In my head I was going third-to-first. I came up and my back cleat got caught and I tried to spin around and go third to first, so that was that,” he said of the move.

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But Buchholz wasn’t the only one adding to the now six balks Red Sox pitchers have been called for this season, which is tops in the American League. Franklin Morales was tagged for two – one in the seventh, one in the eighth – giving Boston pitching five balks in the last eight games.

Three pitchers are responsible for Boston’s six balks this season, with Buchholz, Morales and Daniel Bard all charged with two. Bard was called for a pair of balks in his May 8 outing against the Kansas City Royals, a 6-4 Red Sox loss.

“I don’t think it’s something we have to (work on),” said Valentine. “I mean, (pitching coach) Bob McClure will address it, sure, but I haven’t ever gotten gun shy about balks. But I don’t know.”

“We’ll probably go two months and not have another one,” McClure told CSNNE’s Sean McAdam after the game.

The Major League record for balks in one game by one pitcher is held by Milwaukee Braves pitcher Bob Shaw, who had five balks against the Chicago Cubs on May 4, 1963.

Dave Stewart owns the record for most balks in a season, with 16 for the Oakland Athletics in 1988.

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