Los Angeles Dodgers’ starter Clayton Kershaw has averaged 1.89 balks per season over his nine major league campaigns.
So far this season, he’s been called for a balk just three times total in 149 innings on the mound.
Whether he’s playing mind games with the opposing starter, or legitimately trying to plant a seed in the umpires’ minds, Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker mentioned this afternoon that he’d like the umpires for Game 1 of the NLDS to keep a close eye on the Dodgers’ lefty when runners reach base.
“I know he's tough to hit and he's tough to run on,” Baker said. “Quite frankly, I'm hoping that the umpires, we get some baserunners and the umpires might call a balk or two on him because he kind of rolls through the set position, which they don't call, but I heard that really upsets him if they do call one. So I'm hoping that they call maybe a couple of them.”
Baker was asked if he would tell the umpires to watch for what he’s seen.
“No, but [First Base Coach] Davey [Lopes] will. Davey always alerts the umpires; whether they do anything about it or not but they are alerted.”
Informed of Baker’s comments, Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts laughed.
“I didn’t know Dusty wanted to play that game,” Roberts said. “First, to the question, it’s a little gamesmanship. Clayton has been around a long time, his move has been the same and I think he’s been called for a balk a couple times. I don’t think they’re going to be surprised.”
As for any Nationals’ pitchers he might talk to the umpires about himself?
“There [are] a couple guys that we might throw a bug in the umpires’ ear as well,” Roberts half-joked, though he seemed to have a list on the tip of his tongue.
“Start with [Mark] Melancon maybe, [Shawn] Kelley, [Marc] Rzepczynski, I think Gio [Gonzalez] has got one too, so.”
Robert was asked if that kind of talk had any influence on the umpires?
“I think Dusty is going to try,” he said. “So... it doesn’t, there’s a little bit of banter with umpires, home plate umpires — you might see it from both sides of the dugout this series — but to the extent of how much it works, I don’t think it does.”
Let the gamesmanship begin...