But those cheers soured when Megill was forced to make a pit stop. The home plate umpire approached Megill and asked him to hand over his glove and hat and unbuckle his belt.
The search was all part of baseball’s new crackdown on “sticky stuff” — unapproved foreign substances that some pitchers have sneakily used to better grip the ball. Starting Monday, MLB directed its umpires to begin checking a pitcher’s hat, glove and belt at random points in the game to make sure that the sticky stuff isn’t being used.
The crackdown has only been in place for a few days now, and no pitchers have been caught. Still, several pitchers have already become visibly peeved by the frisks.
On Tuesday night, Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer demonstratively threw down his hat and glove and undid his belt when umpires checked him after he struck out a batter.
Why MLB is cracking down
Since the early days of the sport, pitchers have used various substances to reduce the slickness of the ball to better control it. MLB has long banned most substances, aside from a bag of rosin powder. However, the practice of using unapproved sticky stuff has become more common in recent years and, according to the league, has changed the way the game is played.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement last week that the crackdown would better level the playing field away from pitchers’ recent strength.
“I understand there’s a history of foreign substances being used on the ball, but what we are seeing today is objectively far different, with much tackier substances being used more frequently than ever before,” he said.
Catchers and other positional players are subject to in-game checks for foreign substances as well. Those players caught with foreign substances will be immediately tossed from the game and suspended for 10 games.
In a statement, MLB said it completed extensive testing that determined sticky substances can increase the spin rate and movement of the ball, giving an unfair advantage to pitchers and leading to less on-field action.
Though no pitchers have been caught sticky-handed, the checks have led to some drama, including in Tuesday night’s game between the Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies.
In the middle of the fouth inning, Phillies manager Joe Girardi asked umpires to check for substances on Scherzer, the Nationals pitcher. Umpires then approached Scherzer for the check, and he demonstratively threw down his equipment and pleaded his innocence. The umpires found no issues.
An inning later, after striking out another batter, Scherzer walked off the field while glaring toward the Phillies dugout. He then held up his glove and hat to further show the opponent he was clean. In response, Girardi left his dugout and stomped onto the field, yelling across the way. Umpires ejected him from the game.
CNN’s David Close contributed to this report.