The game swung on the tiniest of moments, a flutter of Sergio Romo's shoulders that a blinking man might miss.
Mike Muchlinski, the umpire behind the plate in a 13-5 Dodgers loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, did not blink. He charged from his perch to point at Romo and signal a balk, which drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning for the Diamondbacks. An avalanche would follow.
"I have no explanation," Romo said, "for any of that."
The Dodgers bullpen, perhaps the club's finest asset, unraveled in the eighth. Four pitchers combined to give up nine runs.
They issued five walks, the most in one Dodgers inning since 1974. Romo balked for the first time in his career. For the first time this season, manager Dave Roberts watched his relief corps crumble.
Called in to put out a fire created by Ross Stripling, Luis Avilan walked in the tying run.
Asked to preserve a deadlock, Romo balked before serving up a two-run single to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and a two-run double to outfielder Yasmany Tomas.
Tasked with maintaining a respectable outcome, Josh Fields surrendered a two-run single to backup catcher Chris Iannetta and an RBI double to utility infielder Daniel Descalso.
"Sometimes, outs come pretty easy," Roberts said. "And sometimes, you can't stop the bleeding."
The eighth-inning flood overran an otherwise encouraging game for the Dodgers offense. Corey Seager drove in three runs.
The Dodgers reclaimed the lead after Alex Wood gave up four runs in 42/3 innings. A pinch-hit home run by Chris Taylor put the Dodgers in front in the seventh.
The advantage did not last. The bullpen had given up eight runs in 541/3 innings before Friday. The group surpassed that total in one miserable frame.
"That was a weird one, for sure, the way it finished up," Wood said.
The two clubs jockeyed for the advantage from the start.
Seager walloped a two-run shot against Diamondbacks starter Taijuan Walker in the first inning. Arizona outfielder A.J. Pollock greeted Wood with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the inning. Pollock doubled and scored on an RBI double by shortstop Chris Owings in the third. Seager broke the tie with an RBI single in the fifth.
Arizona lunged ahead in the bottom of the fifth. It started with Pollock. Wood could not solve him. Pollock flicked a fastball into right for a one-out single, his third hit of the night. Wood does not deserve blame for the predicament that ensued. He induced a groundball from Owings. Seager fed second baseman Chase Utley for one out. Rather than pocket the ball, Utley flung it toward first base.
The throw bounced en route to Adrian Gonzalez and the ball rolled into the Dodgers dugout, a gift that afforded Owings an extra base. It also opened up first base, affording Roberts the option of pitching around Goldschmidt.
Roberts opted for the platoon advantage of Wood against a left-handed hitter, third baseman Jake Lamb. Goldschmidt was intentionally walked.
Lamb entered the game with a .173 batting average in his career against left-handed pitchers. His average soon rose.
On his 76th pitch, Wood fired a fastball on the inside corner, down at Lamb's knees. Lamb still stroked a two-run single.
"I can't beat myself up after that one," Wood said.
The Dodgers clawed back ahead. Andrew Toles provided a score-tying RBI single in the sixth. Taylor crushed a hanging slider from Arizona reliever Archie Bradley to take the lead.
After a four-out stint from Pedro Baez, Roberts handed the ball to Stripling to start the seventh.
Stripling entered the game with a 1.04 earned-run average. He has shown a propensity for getting both right-handed and left-handed hitters out, which provided Roberts with the confidence necessary to extend Stripling into a multiple-inning outing.
Stripling survived the seventh, when a replay review changed a triple by Goldschmidt into a ground-rule double.
His luck ran out in the eighth. With two right-handed hitters sandwiched around a left-handed hitter to start the inning, Roberts stuck with Stripling because he did not want to use three relievers to get the ball to Kenley Jansen for the ninth.
"Ross has shown to get lefties out better than right-handers," Roberts said. "For him to go back out there, I didn't worry about the matchups."
Stripling served up a pair of lasers, a double by second baseman Brandon Drury and a single by David Peralta. Into the fray came Avilan, who walked Iannetta and Descalso. The free passes tied the score. It soon became untied, disastrously for the Dodgers, when Romo arrived.
The call by Muchlinski stunned Romo. He protested for a moment, then returned to the mound. "The guy called balk, regardless of what I think, in a big situation like that," Romo said.
Roberts was more succinct. He checked with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt after the call. "It was a blatant balk," Roberts said.
There was no arguing with what followed. Roberts hoped his club could shake off the horror by Saturday.
"To get beat like this is always tough," Roberts said. "But we've got to turn the page, quickly."