Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi explained why he had Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer checked for illegal substances during Tuesday's 3-2 Nationals win.
According to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, Girardi said: "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. ... It was suspicious for me. ... I didn't mean to offend anyone. I've just got to do what’s right for our club."
Per Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic, Scherzer explained that he was wiping his head to get sweat on his hand in order to mix it with rosin, adding: "I'm just trying to get a grip on the ball. You watch the previous at-bat, I almost drilled someone in the face."
This week, MLB has been cracking down on the use of foreign substances by pitchers, with most starting pitchers getting checked twice over the course of a start. However, Scherzer was checked three times during his five-inning start, with one coming at Girardi's request.
While Scherzer was checked by umpires after the first and third innings, which has been customary across the league this week, he took issue with Girardi having the umps check him for sticky stuff in the middle of the fourth inning.
According to Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports, Scherzer said after the game, "I'd have to be an absolute fool to use something tonight," because of how closely the umpires were monitoring things.
While Scherzer finished the fourth inning, things escalated after the fifth, as Scherzer was leaving the mound, knowing his night was over because of his pitch count.
Scherzer stared at Girardi as he walked toward the dugout, and Girardi got out of the dugout and started yelling at Scherzer and the Nationals coaches:
Girardi was ejected from the game and Scherzer appeared to taunt him and the Phillies dugout by holding up his hat and glove to show there were no illegal substances on them.
Regarding why he got out of the dugout in response to Scherzer, Girardi said the following, per ESPN's Bradford Doolittle: "I wasn't challenging the club. There was some coaches screaming at me, coaches I know, and it bothered me. I'm not playing games here. I have respect for people over there, I have respect for what Max has done in his career. But again, I've got to do what's right for my team."
The 36-year-old Scherzer, who is a seven-time All-Star, three-time Cy Young award winner and one-time World Series champion, pitched well over the course of his short outing.
He surrendered two hits, three walks and just one earned run, while striking out eight in five innings.
Austin Voth, Tanner Rainey and Brad Hand shut the door on the Phillies over the final four innings, and Scherzer picked up the win to improve to 6-4 on the season.
Meanwhile, the Nats moved to 34-36, and the Phillies dropped to the same record, putting them in a tie for second with the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
The Nationals and Phillies will complete their series Wednesday when Philadelphia hosts Washington at 1:05 p.m. ET.