Drama ensued on Tuesday night between a pair of teams in the race for first place in baseball’s most disappointing division. On the first official night the Phillies and Nationals were subject to baseball’s new foreign substance enforcement policy, Joe Girardi requested that umpires check Nats starter Max Scherzer in the fifth inning for a third time. Umpires previously initiated two prior checks on Scherzer. Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suárez were among Phillies pitchers subject to random checks for foreign substances.
Scherzer was not pleased with Girardi. When leaving the mound in the fifth, the Nationals’ ace stared down the Phillies skipper. Girardi left the dugout yelling back at Scherzer and Washington’s coaching staff and was ejected by home plate umpire Tim Timmons.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo watched the debacle play out from the visiting executive suite of the Hall of Fame club level at Citizens Bank Park. He went on the local D.C. sports talk radio station 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday to voice his opinion on the events that took place the previous night.
“Of course he was. What are we idiots?” Rizzo said when asked if he believed Girardi was playing games on Tuesday night. “It’s embarrassing for Girardi. It’s embarrassing for the Phillies. It’s embarrassing for baseball.
“Yes, he was playing games. Hey, that’s his right. Gamesmanship had 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. … You think you’re going to intimidate a Max Scherzer… it’s just not going to happen. You’re just going to piss him off and make him concentrate that much harder. This is about breaking Max’s rhythm and frustrating him and it didn’t work.”
In his postgame press conference, Girardi said that he asked the umpires for an additional check on Scherzer because he was suspicious of him going to his head as often as he did.
“I’ve seen Max a long time, since 2010,” Girardi said.”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. 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 gotta do what’s right for our club.”
Rizzo obviously wasn’t buying Girardi’s explanation. One of the radio hosts on 106.7 The Fan believed that Girardi was telling the truth when he said he was concerned with Scherzer touching his head.
“That was his goal,” Rizzo said in reference to his belief that Girardi was trying to throw Scherzer off his game. “He’s a con artist. He got you in the con. You believe it and that’s the way it is. He’s been doing that for years on TV.”
Rizzo went on to add that his relationship with Girardi goes way back to the Phillies manager’s high school days. He scouted Girardi when he played at Northwestern and Rizzo knows him well.
Nationals players aren’t happy with Girardi’s actions. Kyle Schwarber called the extra check “bush league.” Scherzer did not understand Girardi’s decision to request a third check.
“For me, it’s kind of confusing. If you watch the Bohm at-bat, I almost put a 95-mph fastball in his head because the ball slipped out of my hand,” Scherzer said to the D.C. media after Tuesday’s game. He went on to explain that he removed his hat to touch his head to get sweat on his hands and that he had zero feel for the baseball all night.
“We’re going to continue to have more events like this happen,” Scherzer said. “As pitchers, we evolve to this. Pitchers aren’t going to be too happy doing this because we’re trying to play by the rules. It is what it is.”
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