Saturday, September 11, 2010 8:29 pm
By Miss Chatter
Collin Balester knows how to laugh at himself despite having a rough go of it in his handful of call-ups to the big leagues this season. First, he hit two batters in the head over the span of nine days back in July-August, coming dangerously close to earning a reputation as a head hunter. Today, he showed rather ungraceful pirouette moves on the mound and threw two wild pitches in one inning of work, but came back in fine fashion.
Balester, who appears to be regrowing his famous mustache, relieved Craig Stammen after two batters reached and one scored in the top of the 8th inning of today's loss against the Marlins. With the Nats down 3-0, and facing Hanley Ramirez as his first batter with no outs, Balester threw a wild pitch that allowed Logan Morrison to take second base. Keeping an eye on the runner at second, Balester spun in a pick-off move and then landed smack on his bum behind the pitching rubber.
Well, now that's not something seen every day in a major league park! Titters and murmurs swelled and circled those of the 17,941 paid tickets in attendance. Video here
In a game where Dunn booted a ball -- literally -- in the first inning, an attempt to catch a runner stealing sent the throw sailing into center field, passed balls and wild pitches allowed runners to advance and the Nats didn't stroke their first hit until the 7th inning... well, it was just another notch in the comedic quantity act. At least the game provided something to amuse fans who witnessed the second home series loss in a row (even though one game remains to be played in this one).
Yet, Balester stood up, gathered himself, and toed the rubber again, ultimately getting Ramirez to strike out swinging. Another wild pitch allowed the runner on second to advance to 3rd, and Balester walked Dan Uggla, but he managed to escape the inning without allowing further damage by inducing a foul popup from Tracy and striking out Mike Stanton.
"It was the weirdest thing that ever happened to me," Balester said after the game. "I was just looking at Desi waiting for him to go and then all of a sudden Espi did and I was all flustered and just started moving limbs and falling all over the place. ... then I just kinda gathered myself and just got over the rubber like I always do and ended up kinda just gathering everything and getting back."
"I mean you hear the whole stadium laughing at you, you just kind of it's a little embarrassing. All you can do is laugh at yourself. I just came back and just had to gather up again and get back to pitching." Granted, it wasn't the whole stadium -- probably more like 13 of it.
Great attitude and "Bally Star" did recover nicely. Manager Jim Riggleman conceded Balester threw the ball well and said falling happens. "You know, that happens, you know guys - spikes catch on the rubber or something and when they make the spin they lose their balance and fall. But he regrouped and did a good job."
The Nats ultimately lost 4-1 to the Marlins, so no fried fish for dinner tonight. They've already lost two of three in the series and my prediction of at least 70 wins is now in jeopardy after they've lost the first two home series from where I left off in my pencil and paper experiment.