By AARON BRACY
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — 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.
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 threw 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.
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, Scherzer threw his glove and hat to the ground, unbuckled his belt and appeared ready to take his pants off in what became a bizarre scene.
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!”
Scherzer sent the Phillies down in order in the fifth and stared hard toward Girardi while walking back to the Nationals dugout. Girardi became unglued, hopping onto the field, motioning with his hands and screaming for Scherzer to come meet him. But plate umpire Tim Timmons intercepted Girardi and ejected him.
A miffed Max mocked the Phillies manager from Washington’s dugout, holding up his hat and glove as if to ask Girardi if he wanted to check one more time.
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 two runs, one of them unearned.
Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins hit home runs for Philadelphia, which has lost five of seven.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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