If there is any athlete in the world most locked in during a game, Max Scherzer is very close to the top of the list. The three-time Cy Young winner is as intense as he is dominant. He grunts when he throws, stalks the mound between strikeouts and talks to himself in tight situations.
Yet, on Tuesday, Phillies manager Joe Girardi put himself directly in the right-hander’s warpath when he asked the umpires to check Scherzer for any foreign substances in the middle of the fourth inning.
Scherzer, who had already been checked twice between innings, responded by tossing his hat and unbuckling his belt to show the umpires he had nothing to hide. Nationals manager Davey Martinez walked out to give the umpires an ear full as well.
Scherzer is no fan of MLB’s decision to crack down on the use of foreign substances by pitchers this season without getting player input. Even when he was being looked at between innings, it was clear Scherzer wasn’t thrilled with the process.
According to Hannah Keyser of Yahoo Sports, MLB’s memo to clubs issued last week warned managers that they could be disciplined if they made any requests for a substance check “in bad faith.” But regardless of whether Girardi believed Scherzer was using anything or not, Scherzer wasn’t happy with the Phillies manager.
An inning later, Scherzer finished his evening by striking out J.T. Realmuto to end the fifth. As he walked back to dugout, he stared Girardi down. That prompted the skipper to climb out of the dugout and start yelling at Scherzer. The pitcher didn’t say anything back but held up his hat and glove, showing Girardi there were no substances to be found. Girardi was ejected.
The Nationals and Phillies entered the series separated by just one game in the NL East standings. Scherzer was pitching for the first time since June 11, when he exited in the first inning with a groin strain.