Nationals win, overshadowed by Max Scherzer’s experience with “Manfred rules”

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Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer reacts as he is being checked for foreign substances during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tuesday, June 22, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WDVM) – Visibly frustrated, Max Scherzer tossed his hat, gloves, even gestured to loosen his belt; as he was checked for the third time in the bottom of the fourth inning, in the Washington Nationals’ game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Scherzer returned to the Nationals’ rotation, after missing a start due to a groin injury, picking up a win over the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-2, pitching five innings, and allowing one two hits, one earned run, walking three, and notching eight strikeouts.

Before Max returned to the mound, the league had already undergone changes that would have wide-reaching affects. On Monday, major league umpires began cracking down on pitchers, examining them regularly for any sticky substance that can give them a better grip on a baseball. Managers can also request a check, but can be denied based on the umpire’s discretion. The rules were in place previously, but were rarely enforced until recently.

Scherzer’s third check came after he sent a fastball high, and inside to Alec Bohm, sending him to the ground to avoid contact.

“That pitch specifically is the pitch I fear the most.” said Max Scherzer, when asked about the pitch to Alec Bohm, “I never want to throw a ball near somebody’s head, and tonight the ball did. The previous at-bat, I was able to get a fastball behind him, with an inside fastball. And I literally threw the same exact pitch, but it slipped out of my hands, and went to this face. Thank God it did not hit him in the face.”

Scherzer would exclaim during his final check that all he had in his hat was sweat, which he explained in the postgame press conference that he was looking for, to help him with his grip on the ball.

Sparks started flying, as Max returned to the dugout after the fifth inning, and stared down Phillies skipper, Joe Girardi, prompting him to leave the dugout, and get ejected from the game, as plate umpire Tim Timmons intercepted the manager.

Girardi would explain in his postgame press conference that he was doing what he felt was right for his team, and meant no disrespect for Scherzer.

Scherzer did explain in his postgame presser that he agreed there was an issue with sticky substance in the game, but did not feel that the measures in place right now have been appropriate.

“Hopefully, the players across the league understand that what we’re doing right now, this is not the answer,” Scherzer said. “I feel like there’s a minority group of players here that have made it public about how they feel about pitchers and how what they’re going about. And I completely understand. There’s a problem with Spider Tack in the game and we gotta get rid of that, but there’s a way to handle this in a better way.”

In terms of solutions, he says there could be merit to checking pitchers’ hands in the dugouts, and clubhouse monitors that were in place for COVID-19 protocols could be used to check for substance on pitchers’ hands too. But Max doesn’t get to make the final call.

“These are Manfred rules,” Scherzer said. “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.”

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