The manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Joe Girardi, vowed Tuesday afternoon that he would not ask an umpire to check an opposing pitcher for a foreign substance for purely artistic purposes. That would be “silly,” he said. But, Girardi added, he would absolutely ask an ampyer to check a pitcher if he sees anything “clear.”
A few hours later, midway through the fourth inning in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals, Girardi asked the head of the umpire team, Mexico’s Alfonso Márquez, to check the ace of the ace’s hair. Nationals, Max Scherzer, looking for foreign substances. This, after Marquez went through Scherzer’s cap, glove and hands after the first and third innings and found nothing. Scherzer couldn’t believe it:
On Monday, Major League Baseball began enforcing Rules 3.01 and 6.02 (c) and (d) regarding foreign substances in baseball as crater offenses for the first two months of the season. The league’s batting average (.236) was on track to be the lowest in baseball history, one point lower than in 1968, prompting the league to change the height of the mound.
The umpires told the starters that they would be inspected twice. Girardi requested a third inspection because he said he never saw Scherzer repeatedly run his fingers through his hair as he did Tuesday.
Scherzer dropped his glove and cap as Marquez and his team approached. He looked outraged. In fact, Scherzer tried. He began to unbuckle his belt at one point. Marquez told him to stop.
Marquez told a news group reporter that he considered Girardi’s request legitimate based on Scherzer’s actions on the mound. And Scherzer’s hair?
Nationals manager Dave Martinez joined Scherzer on the mound. He pointed to the Phillies dugout. Girardi raised his arms and climbed to the top step. Play resumed and Scherzer finished the inning unscathed.
Scherzer pitched a perfect fifth to end his night. He looked at Girardi as he left the field. Once on the bench, he showed Girardi his right hand, cap and glove once more. Girardi entered the field as several Nationals coaches yelled at him. He gestured for them to come to his side of the field. Nationals pitching coach Jim Hickey taunted Girardi at one point, gesturing for him to be denied confrontation.
Plate umpire Tim Timmons sent Girardi off for the 40th time in his career. So, Max, what about the hair?
He was referring to Alec Bohm, who was knocked down by a 95 mph fastball in the fourth. Pitchers have claimed there will be more hitters hit if they can’t get a better grip on the ball. But the hit-per-pitch rate through May 31 was the highest in 100 years. The previous three seasons were the next three highest.
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That was with the use of sticky material. Girardi said he’s not concerned that the Nationals will ask to inspect their pitchers in retaliation. Martinez made sure to point out that they won anyway.