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Mariners balk off the Dodgers 5–4 thanks to that rule that nobody really understands

This would have been a demoralizing loss. But, balk!

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

There were two good innings today. Let’s only talk about the two good innings.

In the first inning, Erasmo Ramírez got into a little bit of trouble, walking Joc Pederson to lead things off. A fielder’s choice moved him over to second and a grounder hit in the right spot brought him home. Not the best start for our young hero, but he ultimately emerged relatively unscathed.

It was the bottom of the inning, however, that really got things started. Mitch Haniger walked, his first of three. After a Cameron Maybin groundout, Robinson Canó hit an infield single, and Nelson Cruz brought Haniger in with a laser to right field. The next at-bat was a strange event in Safeco Field history, as Kyle Seager asked the entire crowd, in unison, if they had tickets to the show.

What show?

The gun show:

Just like that, it was 4–1 Mariners, on the back of Seager’s 1100th career hit and his 20th homer of the year, making this his seventh straight season with 20+ dingers.

Innings two through seven were remarkably uneventful. The M’s didn’t pick up a hit in five of those frames, and the most interesting thing that happened was Cameron Maybin making a fairly standard catch look a lot harder than it really was.

(Yes, I know that Statcast calls it a 38% hit probability. No, I don’t believe it. Definitely a much easier play than that.)

With a three-run lead in the 8th inning, manager Scott Servais turned to Álex Colomé and Edwin Díaz to protect the advantage. Should be a no-brainer, right?

Um, guys...

No, wait, stop...


At this point, Kate, John, and I really settled into some more card games. After all, it felt like we could be watching this one for a while. A little bit of action in the bottom of the ninth didn’t change anything, as neither Dee Gordon nor Guillermo Heredia could bring Andrew Romine home from second.

The 10th, however, was a different story. The M’s managed to load the bases with just a single out, which sent Kyle Seager to the plate. From there, well...something amazing happened.

Before we get there, let’s check out the official MLB balk rules, from the incomparable Jon Bois:

Got that? Here we go!

After asking around, it’s clear that nobody understands the balk rules. Fortunately, we have some great screenshots to clear things up.

While Dylan Floro was on the mound, he made the mistake of coming set twice. In other words, he looked in for the sign and, after receiving it, brought his hands together and halted them. Like this!

He then did an unthinkable act that obviously gave him a huge competitive advantage by bringing his hands set for a SECOND time. In other words, he didn’t break out of his set by either stepping off the mound or throwing a pitch. Look how differently his hands are set up now!

This is a total joke. What a ridiculous competitive advantage Floro gained. He’s lucky the umpires only awarded the Mariners one game for this! When you’re cheating so blatantly, you should have the full weight of the rule book thrown at you.

But let’s revel in the balk some more. Shockingly enough, this is the second balk-off in Mariners history. The first came back in 2004, in a game where the corners were manned by Scott Spiezio and Jolbert Cabrera (!), Kevin Jarvis (!!) picked up the win, and the winning run was scored by Quinton McCracken (!!!). Talk about a throwback.

It was also great to see Nellie perhaps have some sort of impact as to whether the balk call was made by the umps. Observe:

But wait! It gets better!

So ended a game between a should-be juggernaut (the Dodgers) and a team that somehow has a better record (your 2018 Seattle Mariners!). The M’s took full advantage of a bizarre ending, sure, but they also found surprisingly decent pitching from Erasmo and clean frames from Nick Vincent, Zach Duke, and Adam Warren. The hitting still needs to pick it up — never a good sign when your scoring output is matched by the local soccer team — but a win is a win.

Tomorrow could be a much tougher game to come away with. Rolling with Roenis Elías isn’t ideal no matter your opponent, but starting him opposite Clayton Kershaw is an even riskier proposition. But that’s a problem for tomorrow. Today, on the other hand, is all about the Great Balk-Off of 2018.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Seattle Mariners Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images