The Phillies could not get to Max Scherzer on Tuesday night, but they did almost pants him. No dice there, either.
Scherzer struck out eight over five innings, and the Phils fell for the fifth time in seven games. In the fourth inning, Joe Girardi petitioned the umpires to check Scherzer’s hair for foreign substances as the league begins this week to crack down on pitchers’ using sticky stuff to get grip on the ball. Scherzer, who had already been checked twice, was peeved. He took off his glove, ditched his hat, and started to unbuckle his pants.
“Immediately I spoke with him and I said, ‘Hey, don’t get ejected over this. Let us just do our job and then we’ll be fine,’ ” umpire crew chief Alfonso Márquez said.
Scherzer, Márquez said, had “nothing but sweat.” And the pitcher still had his pants on.
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Scherzer said he’d be ‘an absolute fool’ to have used sticky stuff on Tuesday
Scherzer said it wasn’t warm enough Tuesday night in South Philadelphia for sweat to build on the back of his neck. He found moisture by licking his fingers, but he was sick of tasting rosin powder.
So he tried combing his hand through his hair, which he said was the only place he could find the sweat he needed to mix with rosin for a better grip of the baseball.
That caught the attention of Girardi, who asked the umpires in the fourth inning to inspect Scherzer’s hair. Umpires have started this week to check pitchers for foreign substances, and Girardi was suspicious.
“Girardi, for me, it’s kind of confusing. If you watched the [Alec] Bohm at-bat, I almost put a 95 mph in his head because the ball slipped out of my hand,” said Scherzer, who struck out Bohm before Girardi asked the umpires to check him. “ … For me, that’s the confusing part. I’m just trying to get a grip of the ball, and if you watched the previous at-bat, the ball slipped out of my hand and I almost drilled someone in the face.”
Tuesday was the first game for both teams since MLB began to crack down on pitchers’ using foreign substances. The umpires checked both starting pitchers twice for foreign substances after they completed innings. Additional checks are permitted if the umpires rule them to be in “good faith.”
Márquez said the umpires believed Girardi’s petition for a third check on Scherzer to be “a legitimate request.”
“I’d have to be an absolute fool to actually use something tonight,” Scherzer said. “Everyone’s antennas are so high to look for anything. It is what it is.”
Girardi said Scherzer is a Hall of Fame pitcher, but he said he never saw him wipe his hair the way he did on Tuesday night. The manager said he did not intend to offend anyone, but he has “to do what’s right for our club.”
Scherzer took off his hat and glove when the umpires checked him for a third time and even unbuckled his pants.
“I wasn’t heated. It was just to show that I have absolutely zero on me,” Scherzer said. “I have nothing on me. Check whatever you want. I’ll take off all my clothes if you want to see me. I have nothing on me.”
Scherzer said he hopes what happened Tuesday night can tell players around baseball that “what we’re doing right now is not the answer.” Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto were among players this season to express hope that the league would crack down on foreign substances as spin rates, pitch speeds, and strikeouts reached all-time highs.
“I feel like there’s a minority group of players who have made it public about how they feel about pitchers and I completely understand,” Scherzer said. “There is a problem with Spider Tack in the game and we have to get rid of that, but I also think there’s a way we can handle this in a better way. We can have more enhanced monitoring.”
Scherzer said instead of having monitors in the clubhouse and dugouts to make sure players are wearing masks, they could use them to see if pitchers are applying foreign substances during games. For now, the plan is for umpires to check pitchers the way they did Tuesday night.
“These are Manfred Rules,” Scherzer said, referencing MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. “Go ask him what he wants to do with this. I’ve said enough. Go ask Alec Bohm how he feels about 95 at his face. I don’t need to say anything more about this.”
Scott Lauber has all the details on a crazy night at the ballpark.
Remember Dylan Cozens? The former Phillies prospect is walking away from baseball with the hopes of playing in the NFL. He signed to play football at the University of Arizona before deciding to sign with the Phillies.
Aaron Nola is scheduled to pitch Friday against the division-leading Mets. Through 15 starts, he has a 4.22 ERA. He talked recently with Lauber about what he needs to fix.
Today: Vince Velasquez starts against Erick Fedde in the series finale vs, the Nats, 1:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Phillies are off.
Friday: Phillies open four-game series in New York with a doubleheader at Citi Field, 4:10 p.m.
Saturday: Phillies and Mets play again in the afternoon, 4:10 p.m.
Sunday: Phils finish series in Queens, 1:10 p.m.
Monday: Phils play a makeup game in Cincinnati, 6:40 p.m.
Stat of the day
Today is the 50th anniversary of Rick Wise’s throwing a no-hitter and hitting two homers in the game. Wise is the only player in history to do that. And his big night came nearly seven years to the day that Jim Bunning threw a perfect game on Father’s Day in 1964.
Bunning’s perfecto on June 21, 1964 was in the first game of a doubleheader at Shea Stadium. Wise, then an 18-year-old rookie, started the second game for the Phils and allowed three hits in six scoreless innings to earn his first major-league win. Johnny Klippstein followed with three shutout innings, as three Phillies pitchers combined that day to allow three hits and no runs over 18 innings.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: Despite his fancy title (Strategy and Development Officer), Matt Klentak seems to have become the Invisible Man in the Phillies’ front office. What does he actually do for the club? Is he mostly using his time to look for a job elsewhere? — Bob W. via email
Answer: Thanks, Bob. Klentak has been at the ballpark a decent amount this season, and I understand he’s working more on the business side of the team than the baseball side. He’s under contract through the 2022 season.
It’s fair to criticize Klentak, but let’s remember that he did sign Zack Wheeler with the belief that he would be a frontline starter. Despite Wheeler’s hiccup Tuesday night, that bet is looking pretty sharp.