With the Mets’ bats quiet in a game that was slipping away, Buck Showalter tried a different method to help his offense get a grip.
Before Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove could throw his first pitch of the bottom of the sixth inning Sunday night, the Mets manager approached first-base umpire and crew chief Alfonso Marquez.
Showalter requested a substance check on Musgrove, who had allowed just one hit in five innings of a game the Padres led by four runs.
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The umpires checked Musgrove’s hat, glove and notably ears for a substance, and the right-hander apparently passed. He remained in the game and kept rolling as the Padres won, 6-0, to knock the Mets out of the postseason.
Pictures had circulated online of Musgrove’s ear appearing to have a shine, as if he could be using a sticky substance to help his grip and spin rate on the ball. It is also possible Musgrove was especially sweaty.
“Cheater,” rang out from a Citi Field crowd that had little reason otherwise to insert itself into the game.
“Musgrove has been untouchable. In my eyes, he’s been cleared 100%,” tweeted former Mets pitcher and current SNY analyst Jerry Blevins. “It isn’t bush league to check him. It’s not unprecedented that pitchers cheat. His ears were talking points everywhere but the broadcast. And David Cone in the broadcast talked about all his spinrates being up.”
Musgrove’s spin rates were up, but so was his velocity, which sticky substances would not aid.
“I guarantee Musgrove has Red Hot on his ears,” Brewers outfielder Andrew McCutchen tweeted. “Pitchers use it as mechanism to stay locked in during games. It burns like crazy and [I don’t know] why some guys thinks it helps them but in no way is it ‘sticky.’ Buck is smart tho. Could be trying to just throw him off.”
If Showalter’s intention were to annoy Musgrove, it is possible it worked. After striking out Tomas Nido, Musgrove appeared to make a gesture toward the Mets’ dugout. After pitching a scoreless sixth, Musgrove yelled toward Showalter as he walked to the Padres’ dugout.