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Collin Balester's strange day

Collin Balester entered today's game with no outs in the eighth inning, a runner on first base. He could be called plenty of things as a pitcher, but "dull" is not one of them. The first thing he did -- before "the weirdest thing that's ever happened" to him -- was blaze a high-90s fastball in front of Hanley Ramirez's face and to the backstop.

That wild pitch sent the runner, Logan Morrison, to second base and set up one of the more unusual sights from a Nationals game this season. Before the at-bat began, Balester and shortstop Ian Desmond had devised a plan. If Morrison reached second base, they would try to pick him off before the next pitch. So, with Morrison on second, Balester glanced at Desmond.

"Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see [Danny] Espinosa going," Balester said.

For some reason, Espinosa, and not Desmond, breaking to the bag confused Balester. He went to step off the mound for the pickoff anyway, and it was like his body would no longer do what he wanted it to. He just crumpled to the ground, like Bambi walking on ice.

"I don't even know what I did," Balester said. "I just lifted my leg and just flipped on the ground. I don't know. That was the weirdest thing that's ever happened to me.

"I was just looking at Desi, waiting for him to go, and then all of a sudden Espi went. I was just all flustered. I started moving limbs and falling all over the place."

Balester was not called for a balk, and he still isn't sure why.

"I don't think I stepped off," Balester said. "I just looked at the replay, and it looked like moving parts. I didn't know what I was doing. I kind of just fell down and laid on the rubber for a little bit."

Balester felt embarrassed, but this, actually, is a success story. He came back to strike out Ramirez swinging at a 95-mph fastball. Before the inning ended, he threw another wild pitch. But he got Chad Tracy to pop up into foul territory, and then he struck out Mike Stanton, too. Balester pitched only inning, but he packed a lot of action into those three outs.

"I ended up kind of gathering everything and getting back," Balester said. "You hear the whole stadium laughing at you, all you can do is laugh at yourself. I just came back and to gather up again and get back to pitching."

The one moment was funny, but it shouldn't distract from Balester's eye-opening stretch recently. In his last five appearances, Balester has not allowed a run. During the span, he has allowed three and two walks while striking out 14 in seven innings. He can still be wild, but Balester is showing signs he may really take to relieving full-time.

After the game, as he dressed to leave, Sean Burnett looked over Balester him and asked him, "Do we have early work tomorrow?"

"Yeah," Balester said. "I'm going to teach you guys how to pick off at second base. The real way."

By Adam Kilgore  |  September 11, 2010; 6:15 PM ET
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Next: Today's lineup


You know, ya gotta love that guy! Saw him fall down for no apparent reason and thought, uh-oh he is going to go to pieces and they are going to plate run after run. But no, he gets back up and does his job. Pretty weird, Bally, but good for you!

Posted by: NatsFly | September 11, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

"Balester was not called for a balk, and he still isn't sure why."

Ump too busy laughing.

Posted by: nunof1 | September 11, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Every day is a strange day for him.

Posted by: Brue | September 11, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

A picture's worth a thousand words... Couldn't we get some video on this??

Posted by: spunkydawg1 | September 11, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

I was watching, and it looked to me (and Ray Knight) like he did, in fact, step off initially, but his other foot came down very close to the rubber itself. I thought he might get called on that. But this explains something--my impression at the time was that he looked like his upper body was trying to turn one way, and his legs were trying to turn the other way.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 11, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Now it'll take 10-10 to reach 70 wins. Anything less that and it'll like the Nats aren't making significant progress this year.

The one team that it would seem they have the best chance of climbing past just beats them over and over. I hate the fish, but I have to respect the production they get and their quality pitching.

Posted by: nats24 | September 12, 2010 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Balester has always seemed to have good stuff, but he's sort of a Nuke Laloosh character out there, big, dumb, and sporadically wild.

Women get wooly...

Posted by: FergusonFoont | September 12, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Addressing periculum from a previous thread:

Yes the farm system is the key ingedient, but not the only one. The Nats are finally moving away from that under-slot signabilty garbage in their drafting, and that is a good sign for the future.

One important thing to realize is that you do not hurt yourself by extending yourself a little on the payroll. This is a popular misconception that Lerner fosters, and it needs to be overcome.

If you add a couple players through trades who make decent salaries, how does that hurt you? It doesn't, and you can trade them later for good prospects. If they sign elsewhere when their contracts expire, they bring high draft picks. Why is that a bad thing? The Nats don't trade for any players who make decent salary, and that limits options.

The Nats have had only one $20 million FA in the Lerner years, and that was Dunn. He didn't hurt the club. In fact he helped in the lineup, and will help further when he brings in two very high draft choices when he signs elsewhere--perhaps an extra first rounder and a pick between rounds one and two. Dunn helps a lot more than he hurts. The other clubs that the Nats compete against know about these things.

While patience and restraint are laudable virtues, you can go too far with these virtues at the MLB level. You need a balance. The Nats lose Guz, Dunn and Capps, so that's $23.5 million to play around with, even if they do keep their payrioll at the same small-town level (far lower than KC, TB, Cincy, Twins and most other smaller towns). Cantu and Crawford are both under 30. And if you extend the payroll some, you can complement the kids coming up with a good team that excites the region, building a fan base and long-term revenues. Only on this blog are those strategies a negative.

Posted by: EdDC | September 12, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

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