'Bizarre' Moment in MLB Playoff Game Leads to Cries of 'Cheater!'

San Diego Padres pitcher gets his ears checked at Mets manager's request
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 10, 2022 1:00 AM CDT
Updated Oct 15, 2022 6:30 AM CDT
'Bizarre' Moment in MLB Playoff Game Leads to Cries of 'Cheater!'
San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado and shortstop Ha-Seong Kim (7) celebrate as catcher Austin Nola, left, and left fielder Jurickson Profar, right, join them after the Padres defeated the New York Mets in Game 3 of a National League wild-card playoffs, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in New York.   (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

With a magnificent performance on a memorable night in Padres history, Joe Musgrove brought this one home for San Diego and really stuck it to the New York Mets. The big right-hander brushed off chants of “Cheater!” after a bizarre spot check by umpires on the mound, pitching his hometown Padres into the next round of the playoffs Sunday with seven innings of one-hit ball in a 6-0 victory over the listless Mets, the AP reports. “You could see the resolve in his face and the demeanor he had,” San Diego manager Bob Melvin said. “He was on a mission today.” The Padres took the best-of-three National League wild-card series 2-1, advancing to face the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers in a best-of-five Division Series beginning Tuesday.

Musgrove grew up a Padres fan in the San Diego suburbs and pitched the franchise's first no-hitter last year in his second start with the team. He was working on a one-hitter and warming up for the sixth inning Sunday when Mets manager Buck Showalter came out of the dugout and spoke to first base umpire Alfonso Marquez. “All Buck requested was for us to check for an illegal substance,” Marquez said. The six umps huddled and then went to the mound. Marquez, the crew chief, felt Musgrove's glove, cap—even his ears—searching for any unauthorized sticky substances. “I’ve seen him do it before, checking the pitcher,” Musgrove said, referring to Showalter. “I get it, dude. They’re on their last leg, they’re desperate, they’re doing everything they can to get me out of the game." Marquez said the umpires “found nothing.” Musgrove was allowed to continue, and he worked a 1-2-3 sixth punctuated by a pointed gesture toward the New York dugout. “It motivated me a little bit, man. It fired me up,” he said.

Fans yelled “Cheater!” at Musgrove, a member of the 2017 Houston Astros World Series champions that were found by Major League Baseball to have stolen signs illegally to help their hitters. Musgrove has said he feels uncomfortable wearing his Astros championship ring after their cheating scandal rocked the sport. He said he wants “one that feels earned” with the Padres. The spin rate was up on all six of Musgrove's pitches Sunday. “I love him as a pitcher, always have," Showalter said. "I feel kind of bad about it, but it won’t cast anything. He’s too good a pitcher, and they’re too good—without getting into a lot of things, the spin rates and different things that I’m sure you’re all aware of when you see something that jumps out at you. I get a lot of information in the dugout that—we certainly weren’t having much luck the way it was going, that’s for sure."

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"I’m charged with doing what’s best for the New York Mets," Showalter continued. "If it makes me look however it makes me look or whatever, I’m going to do it every time and live with the consequences. I’m not here to not hurt somebody’s feelings. I’m going to do what’s best for our players and the New York Mets. I felt like that was best for us right now. There’s some pretty obvious reasons why it was necessary.” Tweeted Milwaukee outfielder Andrew McCutchen, "I guarantee Musgrove has Red Hot on his ears. Pitchers use it as mechanism to stay locked in during games. It burns like crazy and IDK 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.”

(More San Diego Padres stories.)

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