Every baseball game has a better than 50-50 chance of showing you something you’ve never seen before. After yesterday afternoon’s “Hot Stuff” game, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Yes, I played hookey from work yesterday afternoon to catch a day game with a friend at Nationals Park. (Question: can it be hookey if you tell your boss and your assistant…and wear blue jeans to work with a Strasburg t-shirt underneath your regular shirt?) When I chose that game from my season ticket pool, I had no idea that Stephen Strasburg would be pitching!
It was a muggy and overcast day, and I arrived just in time to see three Nats stand in left field and let a routine fly ball from the first Padres hitter fall between them for a “double.” (Where is truth-in-scoring? That was an error. Just assign it to someone and get over it.) Jeez, these guys are in first place? But that was just the beginning.
Stephen Strasburg (he of the miniscule ERA and over-powering stuff) looked uncomfortable from the get-go. He walked around. He messed with the rosin bag. And when he gave up a couple more “hits” and stood on the mound while a deluge hit the ballpark, he looked like he would prefer to be anyplace else.
We all ran for cover as the rain pelted the field. The umps – with two men on, two men out, and the count 3-2 – finally called for a rain delay. Strasburg and his teammates headed to the shelter of the dugout. The grounds crew pulled out the tarp.
And just like that, the rain stopped. Eight minutes later, Strasburg was back on the mound.
That was first-time experience #1: shortest rain delay I’ve ever seen.
But Strasburg still looked uncomfortable. And with a 3-2 count, you knew a fastball was coming. It did, it went back out to the outfield as a hit, and just like that the Nationals were down 3-0. They never recovered, and even though Bryce Harper hit his second major-league home run, it was pretty much a blowout as the Padres took a 6-1 win.
I wrote it off as a fun afternoon, even with the oppressive humidity and the loss. But last night I learn what may have caused Strasburg’s discomfort.
Hot Stuff ointment!
I’ll let CBS Sports pick it up from here:
Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg is known for bringing the heat and he did it again Tuesday in D.C. But it wasn’t a 100 mph fastball – it was a penetrating cream that apparently “got to the wrong place.”
The ace pitcher was roughed up by the light-hitting San Diego Padres and according to manager Davey Johnson, Strasburg wasn’t feeling too great on the mound. That’s because some his Hot Stuff ointment — a cream used by athletes to loosen up — accidentally ended up on the wrong part of the body.
“It was on his shoulder and evidently — I don’t know how it got to where it got, but it was uncomfortable, to say the least,” Johnson laughed.
Strasburg wasn’t laughing. “I’m going to keep that in the clubhouse,” he said when asked about the ointment mishap.
As the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore notes, it’s possible the rain caused the Hot Stuff to trickle down to a part of the body where the ointment is not intended.
First-time experience #2: Star pitcher undone by analgesic ointment.
As Thomas Boswell noted in this morning’s column, the Nationals’ “blight of physical maladies finally reached total absurdity.” Of course, this being Washington, the whole thing was given a “gate” suffix, and Ointment-gate was officially born. Teammate Michael Morse has been quoted as saying it never happened, but hey…let us have some fun after a loss.
So many years from now, when I’m sitting at the ballpark with a grandson or grand-daughter, I can laugh and tell the story of how a hot-shot star pitcher was done in by Hot Stuff – and I was there to see it!
You can’t make this stuff up.
More to come…