In the bottom of the sixth inning of the win-or-go-home Game 3 of the Wild Card Series, Padres starting pitcher Joe Musgrove was checked by the umpiring crew for a possible illegal substance. Mets manager Buck Showalter had a quick conference to request the check with the umpires, who chatted together and then checked Musgrove.
Musgrove had been dealing up to that point in an eventual 6-0 Padres win. Through five innings of scoreless ball, he had allowed only one hit and struck out four with no walks. Here's a look at the check:
Per MLB rules: "Any pitcher who possesses or applies foreign substances will be subject to immediate ejection from the game and suspended automatically in accordance with the rules. If a player other than the pitcher is found to have applied a foreign substance to the ball, both the position player and pitcher will be ejected."
After the check, the umpires cleared Musgrove of any wrongdoing and he stayed in the game. Musgrove then induced a groundout before striking out the next hitter and staring down the Mets' dugout -- likely Showalter -- and then ended the inning by getting a deep flyout. It then appeared that Musgrove had an exchange with the Mets dugout as he walked off the field.
Musgrove ended up throwing seven scoreless innings while allowing only one hit. He is the first pitcher to throw at least seven innings and allow less than two hits in an elimination game in MLB history, per Sarah Langs. He said the Mets requesting the check "lit a fire under his ass."
Early in the game, fan conspiracies started circling social media regarding Musgrove's ears looking red and shiny. There's obviously nothing illegal about having red and shiny ears, as ridiculous as it sounds to even utter such a phrase, and veteran big leaguer Andrew McCutchen weighed in:
Here we go. 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.— Andrew McCutchen (@TheCUTCH22) October 10, 2022
Somewhat sparse chants of "cheater" could be heard in Citi Field after the check, which was odd timing considering the umpires had already checked and cleared Musgrove, but it's a high-intensity, elimination game.
Musgrove's velocity and spin rate -- things that could increase drastically with the use of certain foreign substances -- were up ever-so-slightly on Sunday, but not to levels that would indicate something funky is going on. And, hey, it's an elimination game. He's probably fired up and throwing harder due to the adrenaline.
Here's how Showalter explained why he wanted a check after his team's season-ending loss:
Musgrove won a World Series ring with the 2017 Astros -- purveyors of the sign-stealing scandal -- and has recently said . Musgrove and the Padres are moving on to the NLDS to face the Dodgers.