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Balkin' Around

Much like Sunday night, the last (and only other) time a Mets pitcher committed three balks in a game, the story was the end of a winning streak due to missed opportunities.

The 1963 Mets had won 4 straight, their longest win streak in franchise history heading into their game in Philadelphia on April 22, 1963.

It would be, amazingly enough, the only game that Don Rowe would start in his major league career, and perhaps it was the jitters from that which resulted in his three-balk effort, part of a game in which Mets pitchers balked four times in all.

The visitors built an early 3-0 lead, but left pairs of runners on base in each of the first two innings. That allowed the Phillies to play catch-up, and after a fifth inning in which Rowe balked twice before being removed, the score was even, 3-3.

The New York Times does not speculate on the cause of Rowe's woes, though we did notice a rather odd trend from that 1963 season. There must have been some sort of issue regarding balks, because there were four instances that season of a pitcher being called for three balks in a game, all of which occurred in less than a month. Rowe's was the second game of that batch.

There wasn't another three-balk game after that for 11 years. The Mets were beneficiaries of a similar balking epidemic in 1988, a year in which 22 pitchers were called for balking 3+ times. Jim Gott's three-balk eighth inning handed them a win on August 6, 1988.

But I digress.

That game of 1963 was one in which the Mets left 12 on base and had a runner thrown out at the plate. The Phillies, after tying the score in the fifth, broke the tie in the sixth with three runs, the last coming home on the Mets fourth balk of the game.

By the ninth inning, it was 8-3, and the Mets staged a valiant rally to try to tie. Frank Thomas hit a two-run homer to cut the lead to 8-5, and that was followed by a double, an error, and two walks, making the score, 8-6.

Alas, there would be no end-game magic in this one. Pinch-hitter Rod Kanehl struck out looking on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.

We thought it funny the way the second paragraph of the Times story read the next day. You might see something similar in Monday's edition.

"But not even the 8-6 loss to Philadelphia could detract from that past weekend of stirring triumphs."

The truly balking Mets fan knows...Mike Pelfrey's 4 balks this season are the most by a Mets pitcher since Ron Darling and Wally Whitehurst balked 4 times apiece in 1991. The Mets club record for balks in a season is 10 by David Cone in 1988.

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