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MLB Team Suffers From 'Worst Call' of 2018, Which Led to Bizarre Balk

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A phantom balk by Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz is being called one of the worst calls of the season.

The questionable call ultimately cost the Braves two runs in their 5-4 loss to the Cubs on Thursday.

With runners on first and second and no outs in the top of the second, Braves starter Foltynewicz went into the stretch, spit and was called for a balk. There didn’t appear to be any other movement.

“Nice break for the Cubs, but it’s terrible umpiring,” said the Cubs color commentator Jim Deshaies.

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The Cubs Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward moved to third and second respectively. It proved to be a key play in the game as the next batter, Wilson Contreras, hit a grounder to second, which would have been an easy double play if runners had still been on first and second.

But with the balk, Zobrist scored and Heyward went to third. Heyward then scored on a grounder to second by Kyle Schwarber. Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies tried to nail Heyward at the plate, but threw it wild for an error.

Had there been two outs, Albies would have just thrown out Schwarber at first to end the inning.

“Really, all I did was just spit,” Foltynewicz said after the game. “We’re trying to go look back at the replay and didn’t see anything — we really couldn’t tell so its just a tough situation — especially when the next pitch was ground ball to the second baseman.”

Foltynewicz asked the umpire why he was called for a balk and got little explanation.

“I literally asked him, ‘I can’t spit. I can’t breathe out here?’ and he shook his head no. … That was basically all the explanation I got,” Foltynewicz said.

Foltynewicz was asked if he’s aware how frequently he spits while in the set.

“Who knows what you really do out there?” Foltynewicz said. “You’re just in the zone. You can do a bunch of different habits and stuff. I just basically hocked a loogie.”

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Was this a bad call?
Braves manager Brian Snitker was at a loss, too.

“[The umpires] said he flinched,” Snitker said, reported MLB.com. “I haven’t seen it, but guys who saw it said they needed to look at it three times to see it. Evidently, he had done something earlier in the game to call [the umpires’] attention to something like that because everybody said it was a movement to spit.”

The Braves rallied from the loss to the Cubs to take two out of three from the Pirates over the weekend to increase their lead to 4 games over the Phillies in the NL East. Atlanta opens a series Monday at home against the Red Sox in a potential World Series preview.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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