Red Sox ace Jon Lester pitched a gem against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the World Series, scattering five hits while striking out eight over 7.2 scoreless innings en route to an 8-1 Boston drubbing for an early 1-0 series lead.
But did he have some extra help in shutting down the St. Louis attack?
According to Cardinals minor league pitcher Tyler Melling, the answer to that question was a resounding yes (UPDATE by Stephen Meyer at 1:05 PM EST: Melling has since deleted the tweet in question, but here is a clear photo from The Big Lead on Twitter):
We can clearly see something on the inside of Lester's glove, though what that may be is nothing but pure speculation.
What can't be disputed, however, is that Lester did rub his fingers on that spot throughout the game, as caught in a vine that has quickly begun to circulate around the web:
Is it Vaseline? Rosin? Some sort of gel that the Red Sox have been putting in their beards to keep them looking as freaky and insane as possible? Here's a look from a different angle, courtesy of Jason Barrett, program director for 95.7 FM The Game in San Francisco:
Lester himself addressed the controversy and drama by saying it was simply rosin—with no other foreign substances, such as Vaseline, in play (h/t to Buster Olney of ESPN.com and Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal):
Red Sox manager John Farrell weighed in on the topic, echoing his ace's claims that he only used rosin (which is apparently now available in neon green):
MLB has already issued a statement on the incident (h/t to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports):
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny doesn't seem to buy Lester's statement, but is done talking about it:
For what it's worth, even the Cardinals' own GM John Mozeliak says it's a non-issue in his mind (h/t to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch):
"As far as I'm concerned it's a non-issue," Mozeliak said. "It's something that arose in social media and not from our players or manager or our coaching staff. To me it does not represent a concern."
C.J. Nitkowski, who played for eight different teams over a 10-year major league career, doesn't dispute the fact that there is something going on in Lester's glove—but says that it's not Vaseline:
He goes on to make a valid point, one that shouldn't be lost as people rush to judgement over this mysterious substance:
Lester certainly has some explaining to do, and you can be sure that if the World Series advances to a Game 5, when Lester would be scheduled to take the mound again, that Cardinals manager Mike Matheny will make it a point to have the umpires examine Lester's glove to ensure there's no foul play afoot.
Chances are that we'll never know exactly what the substance was. Lester will give an explanation, one that Boston fans will accept and St. Louis fans will refute.
This isn't the first time that a stud Red Sox starter has been accused of cheating this season, as Clay Buchholz—currently scheduled to start Game 4 for Boston—was accused of doctoring the ball by Sportsnet analyst and former big league pitcher Dirk Hayhurst back in May.
This also isn't the first time an opposing starting pitcher has been accused of using a foreign substance to doctor the ball against the Cardinals. Back in 2006, Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Kenny Rogers was accused, but never proven to have used pine tar to alter his breaking pitches during a dominant Game 2 performance.
The powers that be in Major League Baseball may ask their own questions, but what's done is done—and with no way to prove that Lester was gaining an unfair advantage from whatever the substance was, don't expect any disciplinary action from the commissioner's office.