Check, mate: Miffed Max stares down Girardi, Nats top Phils

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PHILADELPHIA — A hairy situation clearly miffed Max.

Max Scherzer threw his glove and hat to the grass, then stared down Phillies manager Joe Girardi after getting checked for a third time by umpires for sticky stuff as the Washington Nationals beat Philadelphia 3-2 Tuesday night.

“These are Manfred rules,” Scherzer said, referring to the crackdown by baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. “Go ask him what he wants to do with this.”

Scherzer (6-4) looked sharp in his return to the rotation after missing a start due to a groin injury, striking out eight in five innings. Girardi apparently didn’t like what he saw.

In the fourth, Scherzer whizzed a fastball high and inside to Alec Bohm, sending him sprawling to the ground before striking him out. Prior to the next batter, Girardi asked the umpires to check Scherzer after he noticed the Nationals ace touching his hair.

“It was suspicious for me,” Girardi said.

Major league umpires began a crackdown on Monday by regularly examining pitchers for tacky substances that can give them a better grip on the baseball. Managers also can request a check, although umps can deny it if they believe it’s not in good faith.

The fiery Scherzer already had been checked by second-base umpire Alfonso Marquez after the first and third inning, with the crew chief doing an inspection of the right-hander’s glove, hat and belt.

So when Marquez approached Scherzer for a third time, this time at Girardi’s request, the three-time Cy Young Award winner tossed his glove and hat to the ground, unbuckled his belt and appeared ready to take his pants off in what became a bizarre scene.

“I would have to be an absolute fool to actually use something tonight when everybody’s antenna is so far high they’d look for anything,” Scherzer said. “I have absolutely zero on me. I have nothing on me. Check whatever you want. I’ll take off all my clothes if you want to see me.”

Scherzer explained that he was having trouble gripping the baseball and the pitch to Bohm was a byproduct.

“I almost put a 95 mile an hour fastball in his head because the ball slipped out of my hand,” he said. “The whole night I was sick of kind of licking my fingers and tasting rosin the whole night.”

Trying to find a way to get a grasp on the baseball, Scherzer reached for his sweaty hair, saying that’s the only place he could find enough moisture without constantly licking his hands after applying rosin — something he said tasted “gross.”

Girardi said prior to the contest that he would not ask a pitcher to be checked merely for gamesmanship; rather, he would do it only if he legitimately believed there was cause.

“I got nothing,” Scherzer appeared to repeat to the umpires, before glaring at Philadelphia’s dugout, brushing his hair with his hands and yelling, “Just wet!”

“Nothing but sweat,” Marquez said afterward.

Scherzer sent the Phillies down in order in the fifth and stared hard toward Girardi while walking back to the Nationals dugout. Girardi then became unglued, hopping onto the field, motioning with his hands and screaming toward the Nationals dugout.

Plate umpire Tim Timmons intercepted Girardi and ejected him.

“I’m not playing games, I’m trying to win games here,” Girardi said. “I have respect for what Max has done in his career, but I have to do what’s right for our team.”

Scherzer mocked Girardi from Washington’s dugout, holding up his hat and glove as if to ask the Phillies skipper if he wanted to check one more time.

“Hopefully the players across the league understand that what were doing right now, this is not the answer,” Scherzer said. “There is a problem with Spider Tack in the game and we’ve got to get rid of that, but I also think there’s a way to handle this in a better way.”

“We’re going to continue to have more events like this happen,” Scherzer added. “As pitchers evolve to this, pitchers aren’t going to be too happy doing this because we’re tying to play by the rules.”

Yan Gomes had a pair of RBI singles for the Nationals, who have won three straight and eight of nine. Scherzer allowed two hits and one run.

Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins hit home runs for Philadelphia, which has lost five of seven.

Washington scored a pair of runs in the first on RBIs by Josh Bell and Gomes.

Harper led off the second with a drive to the second deck in right. The Nationals got that run back in the third on Gomes’ second RBI single of the contest.

Hoskins’ one-out homer to left in the eighth off Tanner Rainey brought Philadelphia within a run, but Brad Hand got four outs to record his 16th save.

WHEELS OFF

Phillies starter Zack Wheeler (5-4) lasted just three innings in his worst start of the season. The right-hander allowed three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and a walk.

As with all pitchers under MLB’s new policy, Wheeler was checked for grip enhancers.

“I could really care less,” Wheeler shrugged. “I’m not using anything.”

HAND-Y WORK

Hand had to wriggle out of trouble in the ninth after surrendering a leadoff double to Bohm, hitting Ronald Torreyes and giving up an infield single to pinch-hitter Matt Vierling to load the bases with one out. But the lefty got Odubel Herrera to hit a shallow fly and retired Hoskins on a grounder on a full-count pitch.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Kyle Finnegan was placed on the 10-day IL with a left hamstring strain.

Phillies: SS Didi Gregorious, out since May 13 with a right elbow injury, could begin a rehab assignment later this week, general manager Dave Dombrowski said on the club’s pregame radio show.

UP NEXT

Washington RHP Erick Fedde (4-4, 3.33) opposes Phillies RHP Vince Velasquez (2-2, 4.44) in the conclusion of the mini two-game series on Wednesday afternoon.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.