Max Scherzer threw five solid innings in the Nationals' victory over the Phillies on Tuesday, but the ace's performance was defined by the three times umpires checked him for foreign substances as part of Major League Baseball's crackdown. Each time, nothing was found.
The third time Scherzer was checked was in the middle of the fourth inning, on behalf of a request from Phillies manager Joe Girardi. That request did not fly well with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who thinks Girardi did it intentionally to try and throw Scherzer's rhythm off.
"That was his goal. He's a con artist. He's been doing that for years on TV," Rizzo said on the Sports Junkies.
Rizzo wasn't done ripping Girardi, either.
"What are we, idiots? Of course he was [playing games]," Rizzo continued. "It's embarrassing for Girardi, it's embarrassing for the Phillies, it's embarrassing for baseball."
Ahead of Tuesday night's game, Rizzo said he was told that managers are not allowed to ask umpires to check pitchers for foreign substance use unless they have probable cause. An example of such would be if they saw pine tar on the baseball or a stain on a pitcher's hat.
Rizzo believes Girardi did not have probable cause to check Scherzer and that the Phillies' manager's only intent was to try and throw Scherzer off his rhythm.
"Gamesmanship has nothing to do with substances. He had no probable cause to ask for it. The umps shouldn't have allowed it. But it happened and you have to deal with it. This is what we're going to have to deal with," Rizzo said.
"If you think you're going to intimidate a Max Scherzer and that type of thing, it's just not going to happen. You're just going to piss him off and concentrate that much harder. This was about breaking Max's rhythm and frustrating him and that type of thing. It didn't work."
As Scherzer trotted off the mound following his fifth and final inning, he stared down Girardi, who immediately trotted onto the field. Girardi was quickly ejected.
After the game, Girardi said that he asked the umpires to check Scherzer after watching the Nationals' right-hander wipe his head more often than usual.
“I’ve seen Max a long time, since 2010 -- obviously, he’s going to be a Hall of Famer -- but I’ve never seen him wipe his head like he was doing tonight, ever,” Girardi said. “It was suspicious for me. He did it about four or five times. It was suspicious. I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I just got to do what’s right for our club.”
While the multiple incidents between Girardi and Scherzer defined Tuesday's game, it was also the Nationals' eighth win in their last nine contests. Washington is the hottest team in the NL East right now and just four games back of the Mets for first place in the division.
That's all Rizzo wants to focus on right now and moving forward.
"We're about winning games. We're still in the early part of the season," Rizzo said. "It's still June, we're still four games out of first place. We're just trying to win each and every game. We're here to beat the Phillies."