How not to strip the naughty sauce

Max Scherzer

Max the Knife wasn’t quite ready to perform a full strip tease over his third stop-and-frisk Tuesday night . . . but but perhaps some pitcher will, soon.

Long before she surrendered the newspaper columnist’s life for life as a novelist and eventual periodic Newsweek columnist, Anna Quindlen observed cheekily (in her early New York Times column, “Life in the 30s”) that basketball allowed women a sublime extracurricular pleasure. It was the only sport, she wrote, in which women got to watch men run around in their underwear.

Let’s be kind and allow that Quindlen thought boxing was as much of a sport as Charles Manson was a family counselor. But she wrote when the NBA’s uniforms still resembled something as close to men’s underwear as you could get away with in public without filming a comedy movie scene.

That was also then, and this is now. Major League Baseball’s ham-fisted mid-season bent on enforcing foreign-substance rules long on the books and long un-enforced may yet give women another such sublime pleasure. Baseball may yet be the first American sport in which women at the ballpark will get to watch men perform strip teases on or around the pitcher’s mounds.

Don’t be afraid to bet the rent or the mortgage on it. There just might be a pitcher ready to coordinate with the ballpark’s public address people and have David Rose’s ecdysiastical  classic “The Stripper” cued up and ready to go, hard and loud, at the split second he hands his hat to an umpire under orders to stop and frisk for naughty sauce.

It nearly happened at least twice on Tuesday night. First, Nationals ace Max Scherzer finally decided too much was enough with Phillies manager Joe Girardi’s harassment in the fourth inning—and thrust his hat and glove to the ground before yanking his belt open savagely enough that you thought he would drop trou on the spot.

Scherzer didn’t, of course. But Athletics reliever Sergio Romo almost did out in Oakland after finishing the seventh. Romo dropped trou just enough that his almost knee-length uniform jersey still kept his hind quarters covered well and good. He bent forward just so, leaving you the impression Romo was trying to moon the fools who imposed the current crackdown without quite being too cheeky about it.

So neither Max the Knife nor El Machon felt confident enough to perform baseball’s first known on-the-field striptease. Somebody just might, though. It could take long enough for Jacob deGrom to make plans, coordinate, then sail into it to David Rose’s tune at the moment he’s accosted and handed the search warrant.

When deGrom had the dubious honour of being the first under the fresh crackdown (or should that be crackup?) to be stopped and frisked Monday afternoon, he couldn’t stop grinning wide when he wasn’t laughing his head right off his shoulders. Maybe if Scherzer had been the first he’d have thought it was funny, too. Maybe.

But do you think a fellow like deGrom, who’d laugh his way through one of his sport’s most ridiculous over-compensatory gestures, would find it hard to resist a shot at making the Chippendales resemble the Chipmunks in order to send a counter-message to baseball’s garbled and clumsy one?

Commissioner Rob Manfred is a man with a ten-thumbed touch and a pronounced cognitive inability to recognise the true roots of crises that spring from his apparent need to demonstrate that Rube Goldberg should have been a baseball executive.

But even Manfred and his gang couldn’t ignore the ridiculously sublime message sent if and when baseball’s best pitcher decides the way to start putting a stop to this is to channel his inner Gypsy Rose Lee. Could they? They already seem somewhat immune to the concept that there might have been a better way to address the naughty sauce than this.

Resisting Manfred’s Rube Goldberg side to experiment with the baseballs themselves would have kept this issue from getting sticky in the first place. Pitchers normally have enough trouble just keeping their arms, elbows, and shoulders from breaking and tearing, whether they’re throwing speeding bullets, voluptuous breaking balls, or slop.

Not to mention their sides, swinging the bats, in the National League at least, since the designated hitter is not yet permanently universal as it should be.

(Don’t even think about it. Just as Nolan Ryan was an absolute outlier for his 27-season career and insane in the brain work loads—though it’s oft forgotten that Ryan had physical issues very early in his career, including missing all 1967 with one—Jacob deGrom and his .407/.407/.444 slash line as of Wednesday morning is an absolute outlier among this years pitchers hitting a whopping .112/.153/.142 slash line thus far.)

Of course, resisting Manfred’s Goldberg side would also require—what do you know—the immediate disappearance of the three-batter minimum for relief pitchers and the free cookie on second base to begin extra half-innings. Don’t say it as though disappearing them would be terrible things.

What has Manfred thought about his precious pace-of-play improvement campaign now that the mandatory stop-and-frisking for naughty sauce has gone from the ridiculous to the deranged and has probably delayed games by a few more minutes apiece?

What does he think’s going to happen to the pace of play when an indignant pitcher finally gets beyond Max Scherzer’s or Sergio Romo’s kind of annoyance and goes as full Ned Braden as a baseball player can go on grass and dirt?

(Who’s Ned Braden? As played by now-retired actor Michael Ontkean, Braden was the anomalously non-violent minor league hockey player diverting the bloodthirsties’ howling blood lust during an on-ice championship game brawl by performing a gracefully-skated strip tease around the rink—provoking the high school band in the stands to make with “The Stripper” and the ladies in the arena to go bonkers with delight—in the Paul Newman film Slap Shot.)

In absolute fairness, it doesn’t seem as though the umpires are necessarily thrilled about being under orders to stop and frisk for naughty sauce, either. Understandable. They have enough trouble with their current reputations for being only too human, with the almost-pandemic blown calls and enough in their ranks believing fans pay their hard earned dough to come to the park to see them behave as laws unto themselves.

They need to be the Commish’s Elite Guard about as badly as deGrom needs two more miles an hour on his best fastball. No member of the crew working the Yankees-Royals game Tuesday night could have felt thrilled about having to stop and frisk Yankee reliever Jonathan Loaisiga after coming out of an eighth inning in which he was slapped silly for four runs on five hits.

Some of us call that adding insult to injury. Others of us wondered if the umps were trying to tell him that, if he did have a little naughty sauce at hand (or anyplace else on his assorted anatomy), there was no excuse for getting pinata’d like that.

The crew working the Nats-Phillies game that got Scherzer’s underwear in a twist has the likewise dubious honour of having thrown out the first manager because of the naughty sauce crackdown.

Girardi called for the third Scherzer stop-and-frisk, just because a) he could, and b) there’s a too-fine line between real cheating alarm and bad-faith gamesmanship (which the memo says can get a manager suspended, folks), but when he tried goading Scherzer and several hollering Nats coaches into a fight Girardi got sent to bed without his supper for the night.

Clayton Kershaw thinks that’s not enough. “I think there should be a punishment if they don’t catch anything on the guy,” the future Hall of Famer said after he saw Max the Knife get knifed in the fourth. “I think Scherzer, you know, he’s one of the best pitchers of our generation. To see him get checked . . . and mess up his rhythm . . . you better find something if you’re going to call him out like that.”

So who’s it going to be, ladies and gentlemen? Who’s going to be the first pitcher to decide too much is enough and go Ned Braden on or around the mound before Manfred gets the a-ha! and addresses the naughty sauce—and the baseballs themselves—reasonably? Who’s going to be the first likewise indignant umpiring crew to let him?

Maybe make the Girardis strip tease if they’re going to cross the line between reasonable doubt and trying not to pay the rent to live in a pitcher’s head. (Oops. Better be judicious about that, especially if you’ve seen Tony La Russa lately.)

I wonder if someone makes breakaway baseball uniforms. If this keeps up, he or she may soon find themselves making such Mets, Nats, A’s, or other uniforms. Unless entire teams decide to play with nothing on but their briefs, jocks, and socks. Nothing to see there! Move on! David Rose, wherever you are, cue up the band.

The Book of Ecdysiastes 1, 3, and 4

Max Scherzer

“I’m so happy I could just strip!”

“In the name of God and His servant Preacher Roe, just what the hell did Joe Girardi think he was doing out there tonight?” That was Gunko Gluedius on the Zoom. He was watching the Phillies play the Nationals Tuesday.

He couldn’t believe Max Scherzer came straight from the injured list and onto the suspect list. Three times in the same game.

“The TSA isn’t this freakazoid when they run you through the airport security checks,” I said, as calmly as I could. I know Gunko. He’s a pitching freak. It’s almost the only part of baseball he really loves. The other part is watching people like Anthony Fauci throw ceremonial first pitches sideways while aiming forward.

“No, they’re not,” Gunko replied. “Not with me, anyway. I had to fly to Seattle last week. I didn’t have the pre-check pass but they still didn’t think I should be peeled like a banana.”

Sometimes Scherzer looks like a fellow who’s spent as much time under the old-fashioned automotive grease rack as he’s spent on the mound. Sometimes he looks like a fellow who spent too much time cleaning the oven so his wife could have a big break.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s given to keeping anything like Goop, Pennzoil, Easy-Off, or pieces of Brillo hidden around his assorted anatomy.

He didn’t have to be thrilled about it, but he knew going in he’d be checked after his first inning’s work. But then Girardi decided to get cute. Especially with the Nats holding a 3-1 lead after three, the lone Phillies run to that point courtesy of former Nat Bryce Harper hitting a down and in cutter up and out into the right field seats in the second.

After a clearly unamused Scherzer stood for his second mandatory random search of the game in the third, Girardi asked the umpires to check Max the Knife again in the fourth.

“I bet that’s the only time in baseball history a manager decided to punish a pitcher for surrendering a bomb to his guy,” Gunko joked. I’m not necessarily sure he’ll win that bet.

As soon as he realised the fourth inning warrant was sworn out and being delivered, any amount of cute left Scherzer’s person at once. He thrust his hat and his glove to the ground. Then he opened his belt with such a savage yank there must have been those fearing for a split second that he was going to peel himself like a banana.

You thought the Citi Field people missed an opportunity by not playing “The Pink Panther Theme” when Jacob deGrom had the honour of first come, first frisked under the Show’s new this-time-we-mean-it-until foreign substance crackdown?

The Citizens Bank Park people should have had that classic from the Book of Ecdysiastes on cue and ready to blast, bump, grind, and growl. Right down to the last trombone.

“I bet you every woman in the house would have coughed up double the price of their tickets to see Scherzer drop trou–and anything else he could think of,” Gunko crowed.

Unless his wife would cough up triple the going price to have divorce papers drawn up on the spot. Grounds? Since Max the Knife isn’t exactly reputed to be one of baseball’s heretofore-unconfirmed cheaters, I’d hazard the guess it would be on the grounds of unaccounted for exhibitionism outside the marital home.

But perhaps Mrs. Scherzer instead would lead the cheers. “Get it, honey, Get it! Show ’em what I know you’re made of!”

Obviously, not even pitching and surviving Game Seven of a World Series with nothing left to throw but meatballs, grapefruits, and canteloupes up to the plate after a neck issue almost took him out showed enough of what Scherzer’s made of.

Remember, the Phillies’ pitchers had to be stopped and frisked, too. Except that Nationals manager Dave Martinez isn’t the kind of guy who’d have had three warrants per pitcher per game sworn out.

He’d better not be. When Scherzer got the third stop-and-frisk order of the night, Martinez looked more ready to file brutality charges than Scherzer did.

Maybe Martinez remembered the night Girardi was managing the Yankees and his starting pitcher Michael Pineda got caught and suspended for suspicious ring around the neck.

“Did you see Scherzer hollering, ‘I got nothing! I got nothing!’ when he got searched the third time?” Gunko hollered to me. Of course I did. It was easier to read Scherzer’s lips than the first George Bush’s.

If you think the pitchers were trying to get away with murder with their new fashioned medicated goo before—and just maybe they were doing it not to be cute but to deal with Commissioner Nero’s incessant ball tinkering the last few years—beware the managers trying to get away with murder for using their newly-conferred freedom to file ball police complaints not to uncover contraband but to live and rattle rent-free in a pitcher’s head.

They can be sent to bed without their supper for it, too. Not just after Girardi got sent there after Scherzer stared him down cold following the fourth-inning flap. It’s in the memo:

Please note that a manager will be subject to discipline if he makes the request in bad faith (e.g., a request intended to disrupt the pitcher in a critical game situation, a routine request that is not based on observable evidence, etc.)

“Oh, that’s cute,” said Gunko when I read that portion to him. “Bad faith, huh? That’s about as clear as a glass of water from the East River.”

“I haven’t had a glass of water from the East River since Bill Clinton was still in the White House, Gunko. But it’s right there. This isn’t supposed to become downright harassment.”

By that time, the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins made the score 3-2 with a healthy belt on a highball out over the left center field fence off Nats reliever Tanner Rainey. Somehow, another Nats reliever, Brad Hand, survived the bases loaded and one out in the ninth to escape with his and the Nats’ lives.

By that time, too, up in New York, Yankee pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga got frisked on a warrant—after pitching two thirds of the eighth inning and getting battered like a pinata on five hits for four earned Royals runs. Why were those umps patting Loaisiga down—for not using the naughty sauce properly?

And where were the Oakland Coliseum PA people when Athletics relief pitcher Sergio Romo almost did what Scherzer couldn’t quite bring himself to almost do—drop trou after finishing the seventh, but only far enough to let his long jersey keep him covered? Not even two bars of “The Happy Organ.”

“Let’s talk about bad faith,” Gunko urged. “You ever heard of the cop who pulls a driver over for a taillight issue and uses it as an excuse to have the poor sap’s car searched and stripped without a warrant? Don’t tell me there’s a manager alive who wouldn’t dream up a taillight issue for an excuse to have a pitcher stripped, searched, and slammered.”

I wouldn’t dare tell Gunko that. It’s right there, in Ecdysiastes 1, 3, and 4.

The Angel of Doom dooms a no-no

Brandon Bielak, Maikel Franco, Angel Hernandez

If this was ball one, I have X-ray vision. Even with a bad framing job that pitch crossed the plate under the strike zone’s ceiling.

Angel Hernandez sued MLB and lost when he tried claiming his race alone denied him postseason umpiring assignments. That was about at the end of spring training. Then, the Angel of Doom went out and continued proving you don’t have to be white to be among the top three to five reasons Robby the Umpbot will soon have major league employment.

Two things especially have stood out. Which may be saying something, depending on your experience.

Thing One: Hernandez called balls and strikes in Anaheim, in April, with the Angels playing the Astros, and blew a verified 24 pitch calls for an 83.2 percent rate of correct calls.

Thing Two: Hernandez may have cost the Astros a combined no-hitter Monday, when he blew an 0-2 strike from Astro righthander Brandon Bielak to Oriole third baseman Maikel Franco on the upper outside corner, still well within the zone, in the eighth inning.

What should have been strike three was ball one. And, with one out and one aboard on a walk, it was enough of reprieve for Franco to hit the next pitch over the left center field fence. Goodbye no-hitter, goodbye shutout.

Never mind the Astros going on to finish what they started otherwise, a 10-2 drubbing of the Woe-rioles. There was and remains no way strike three should have been called ball one.

It was a breaking ball that broke above the zone line but crossed the plate well inside the upper zone, even with Astros catcher Jason Castro trying to frame the pitch lower in the zone.

Unfortunately, it was Hernandez behind the plate. Putting pitchers into Hernandez’s hands is like putting skyjackers in charge of air traffic control.

“It’s the Astros, so I don’t care,” said Tortilla Fats on a face-time call.

“Let me guess,” I said. “You forgot there are only five members of the Astrogate team left on the roster.”

“It’s still the Astros, and I still don’t care,” Fats harrumphed back. “Cheaters once, cheaters always.”

“I bet you would have been an absolute alegria if you were a White Sox fan,” I said. “After all, game fixers once, game fixers always, right?”

“It’s still the Astros, so I don’t care,” Fats doubled down.

“So what if it was Jacob deGrom working the no-no in the eighth with one out, one aboard, Hernandez behind the plate, Endier Inciarte on the Mendoza Line at the plate, and it’s 0-2,” I said. “What if deGrom throws that breaking ball that climbs upstairs and drops right into the upper zone? What if Hernandez calls that ball one, and Inciarte hits deGrom’s next pitch over the fence?”

“He’s not on the Astros,” Fats tripled down. “He’s also Jacob deGrom. Even Angel Hernandez knows that. DeGrom’s not gonna lose a strike and then serve the murcielago espaugeti a meatball.”

“OK, bad example,” I admitted. “Suppose it was Shohei Ohtani. Jacob deGrom he ain’t. Suppose he has Franco 0-2 with one out, one on, and Hernandez behind the plate? Suppose Ohtani throws that breaker starting upstairs and falling right into the zone? Suppose the Angel of Doom blows that strike into ball one? Suppose Franco hits him over the left center field fence?”

“Ohtani’s not an Astro,” Fats quadrupled down. “So I still don’t care. Anyway, the Astros won the game, didn’t they? So what the hell do they have to complain about?”

I reminded Fats that losing a no-hitter—solo, combined, whatever—isn’t exactly celebration fodder. There are those fans who’d rather go to funerals than see no-hitters broken up in the latest innings.

“It’s still the Astros,” Fats quintupled down. “So I still don’t care.”

This was getting worse than Pedro Baez stopping to shop Amazon Prime between pitches.

“Fats, you’re the guy who agreed with me that the human element needs help,” I said. “You’re the guy who said the umpires have gotten so human that Roberto el arbitro roboto can’t come too soon. You said it because you said I was right. You agreed the blown calls have gone pandemic enough. You agreed—blown calls need to be reduced to just the occasional honest mistake and not a goddam habit. With Hernandez its more than a habit, it’s a way of life, apparently.”

“It’s still the Astros,” Fats sextupled down. “So I still don’t care.”

He has this much in common with the Angel of Doom. Sometimes, there’s just no reasoning with Fats.

Stickum up!

Jacob deGrom

Jacob deGrom sets an unexpected precedent: first pitcher searched under baseball’s new rulebook crackdown against that new-fashioned medicated (and otherwise) goo . . .

History won’t quite record Jacob deGrom as the first pitcher in baseball history to be patted down on or departing the mound. Rare as it’s been, it’s happened before. Still-living Hall of Famer Gaylord (K-Y) Perry, the late Hall of Famer Don (Black & Decker) Sutton, and the late Hall of Famer Whitey (The Chairman of the Board) Ford could tell you from experience.

But on Monday afternoon, deGrom was the first to be stopped, stood for inspection, and also ordered to open his belt as though he was a holding-cell suspect about to be placed on suicide watch.

The fact that he beat the Braves in game one of a doubleheader seemed incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.

Welcome to Day One of the Show’s official crackdown on that new-fashioned medicated goo. Purely by an accident of timing, deGrom’s Mets were due to host the Braves in the first of Monday’s games. Purely by the same accident, deGrom himself had the dubious honour of first come, first frisked.

It almost seemed a by-the-way kind of thing when the tall righthander spent the rest of his working hours deGromming as usual. He struck six Braves out in five innings, surrendered one two-out double in the fifth inning that was good enough to let him lure Pablo Sandoval, that early-season pinch-hitting sensation, into a pop out to third for the side.

While he was at it, deGrom speared a leadoff line drive back up the pipe in the third with a swipe of his glove that looked so effortless he might as well have been swatting a pestiferous fly.

It makes you wonder how insect repellant escaped entry on baseball’s contraband list.

“I’m only surprised the umps didn’t think about having his glove checked for Krazy Glue right then and there,” said my friend Kenny Keystone, long-retired sub-minor league infielder, who rang my cell phone right off—well, I can’t say the hook with a cell phone, can I?

Kenny blew up my phone the moment home plate umpire Ben May flagged deGrom down as he strode off the mound after punching two out of three Braves out in the first.

“You seeing this?” he hollered wildly.

“I’m seeing it, Ken,” I replied. “I’m not exactly believing it, but I’m seeing it.”

“Whaddya mean, you’re not exactly believing it?”

“Easy,” I said as the frisking began. “How many times has baseball government threatened a crackdown on this, that, or the other thing? How many times have those crackdowns amounted to, ‘If we catch you doing that again, we’re going to be . . . very, very angry at you’?”

Ken was about to answer when I cut him short. “Wait,” I said. “Here it is.”

There it was. DeGrom strode off the mound, and May flagged him down. It looked at first as though May tossed the last ball deGrom pitched in the inning to either one side or to third base umpire and crew chief Ron (Mea) Kulpa, whichever came first.

May said something illegible to lip readers watching on television. DeGrom waved his right arm away, flashing the kind of grin that in another time and another place might have been the grin of a guy whose well-timed hotfoot was about to explode right up the victim’s heel—not to mention his Achilles tendon and his calf.

Then Kulpa arrived. “Never mind the dental work, buster,” he seemed to say, “hand over the glove.”

Kulpa had his back on the camera view, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that too many indignant fans wouldn’t know the meaning of when real cheaters get caught on the spot and then cuffed and stuffed. He inspected deGrom’s glove almost as though he’d found the tape that fell off the lock at the Watergate.

The only thing missing was the Citi Field P.A. people cuing up and playing the famous theme from The Pink Panther.

“Glove, hat, and belt,” is what turned out to be the instructions to deGrom from the men in blue-black and gray. In the moment, if you weren’t in the ballpark, a half educated guess might have the exchange like this as deGrom handed his gear over:

DeGrom: Here. Nothing to see here, Ron.

Kulpa: Don’t tempt me to say you had nothing upstairs.

DeGrom: You’d have laughed your head off saying it.

Kulpa: Then you’d have been tempted to throw one at me upstairs!

DeGrom: Where it has plenty of room to bounce around?

I did say half educated. DeGrom’s not one of those guys who’s going to let a little thing like baseball’s government imposing and enforcing on-the-spot inspections and searches kill the mood.

For all anybody knows, behind that prankish looking grin of his deGrom was humming the theme to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: “Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?”

Next, Kulpa moved a little to his right. Then, deGrom moved his right hand to the front of his almost non-existent stomach. And the next thing anybody saw, deGrom loosened his belt.

“Are you seeing that?” Kenny whooped. “Why the hell don’t they just have him drop his drawers right then and there while they’re at it?”

At the same moment, May moved left and deGrom had his hat back. After re-fastening his belt and accepting his glove back, too, deGrom moved to his own left, toward the dugout, and never once stopped grinning big and wide—except when he was laughing his own not-so-fool head off.

I had to laugh, too.

“Kenny,” I said, “You know better than me that if they drop his drawers there, it’s going to be tough to decide which is worse—the umps strip-searching a player right there on the field, or that Citi Field audience going you-know-what-shit nuts. And nobody will be able to tell if they’re going you-know-what-shit nuts because of the outrage of the strip search or because the women in the park think deGrom’s got the best legs in baseball.”

“If they were gonna frisk him and search him,” Kenny replied, “why the hell didn’t they just march him into the dugout, move him up against the wall, and pat him down the old fashioned way?”

“Because they were making history, too.”

“History?”

“Purely by an accident of timing,” I said, “deGrom’s the first pitcher to get searched for syrup, stickum, SpiderTack, or other kinds of blends we don’t even know were invented yet. Even if half of baseball world thinks half or better of the pitchers out there today spend as much time in their private laboratories as watching the videos of their most recent pitching turns.”

“Yeah?”

“Well,” I said, “May and Kulpa have become the first umpires to perform searches for syrup, stickum, SpiderTack, and other kinds of blends we don’t even know were invented yet.”

“Who cares about those guys” Kenny asked indignantly.

“I’ll name you two,” I said. “I’m willing to bet half deGrom’s salary that Joe West and Angel Hernandez are steaming mad because the Elysian Fields gods couldn’t bring themselves to arrange it so that one of them would be the first to approach some pitcher with a search warrant.”

Rookie Braves pitcher Kyle Muller was stopped and frisked likewise after working the bottom of the first. Over in Texas, Rangers starter Kyle Gibson and Athletics starter Frankie Montas got stopped and frisked after working each half of the second.

By then it was about as funny as a strip search warrant for a nudist colony. And who cared about them, anyway? They didn’t get to make history. The guy with the 0.50 ERA on the season after his day’s work was done did. He passed inspection with flying colours. Who says deGrom isn’t leading a charmed life this season?

“You can’t bet half deGrom’s salary,” Kenny shot back.

“It’d be the easiest $17.75 million I ever made.”

“I’m coming to Vegas on the morning plane,” he said. “I’ve got two words for you and I’m saying them to your face.”

“And what might those two words happen to be?”

“Stickum up!”

The dog ate his homework

Baltimore Orioles

Manager Brandon Hyde and his Orioles after one of their own got drilled following back-to-back bombs in Camden Yards Saturday night. They know damn well Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah didn’t just slip a runaway fastball inside.

Here’s the Saturday night scenario in Baltimore: A rookie pitcher surrenders back-to-back home runs. He hits the next man up squarely on the bicep with the first pitch. He gets ejected post haste, then speaks to the press post-game.

“I tried to get that fastball in and it slipped away,” said Alek Manoah, the Blue Jays righthanded rook who drilled the Orioles’ Maikel Franco in the fourth inning, right after Ryan Mountcastle hit the first one-out, one on service over the left field fence and D.J. Stewart hit a 2-1 pitch over the right field fence.

The dog ate his homework.

And the Blue Jays overthrew the 5-2 lead Mountcastle and Stewart provided to gorge on the Orioles with a six-run ninth and a 10-7 win. It’s gotten that bad for this year’s Woe-rioles. They can’t even claim safety in a three, then a four-run lead.

But Franco looked distinctly unamused after he got that very pronounced plunk, and as Manoah stepped down from the mound walking toward the plate area. He looked as though he couldn’t decide whether he’d like to have Manoah for dinner or have him crucified on the warehouse behind the yard.

“I was confused by his reaction,” Manoah said. “I was questioning ‘What’s going on? What’s wrong?’ Those were my hand gestures as I was walking toward him. I didn’t understand the frustration there.”

“Even rookies don’t usually have to be told that a guy who can’t hit with a telephone pole this season doesn’t understand why he’s being made to pay because you just surrendered long distance back-to-back on your dollars,” said my long-distance pitching acquaintance, Sticky Fingers McSpidertack, on the phone this morning.

“So you’re telling me the dog ate his homework?” I asked, without a single thought of being a wisenheimer.

“Dig,” McSpidertack replied. “That Mountcastle guy took him out over the center field fence with one out in the second. And who’s that guy, Cedric Mullins? Took him out over the right field fence with two out in the third.”

“So Manoah’s a little on the frustrated side,” I replied. “Didn’t anybody in the minors teach him even for a few minutes that the best pitchers in the business are going to have days where they’re going to get slapped silly? Happens even to the Hall of Famers, Stick.”

“He spent, what, three games in Triple-A,” McSpidertack answered. “Maybe that’s not long enough to teach a few baseball life lessons, maybe it is. I’m the wrong guy to ask. I didn’t get much past Single A, you know.”

“I know, but you don’t have corn flakes for brains, either. I don’t think I ever saw you try putting a hole in the next guy’s anatomy after you got hit for a skyrocket shot.”

“Of course not,” McSpidertack said. “And Franco’s not the one who hung that slider, kept that fastball’s feet tied at the ankles, or threw him a melon even a guy below the Mendoza Line could have given a ride.”

“A ride? OK, Mountcastle’s shot in the fourth just barely made it out, hit the rail behind the fence or something. Got a fastball to hit for that first shot in the second, this time he gets the breaking ball and breaks it because it didn’t really break.”

“Right”

“Then Stewart turns on 2-1 and hits it right onto the Camden Yard promenade. Maybe it landed a few feet from where Boog Powell used to have and run that great barbeque pit.”

“Oh, yeah. I remember that pit, too. There wasn’t one single healthy thing coming off that pit, thank God.”

“Now it’s Franco. Compared to him this year, Mario Mendoza looks like Monster Mashup. The last guy on the planet, or at least on the Orioles, who’s going to take him into the ether. And Manoah throws one right up and into the poor guys’ upper bicep.”

“Or lower shoulder ball.”

“Well, let’s not get technical.”

“Fair enough,” McSpidertack said. “So when it’s all said and done, what’s the take?”

“What the hell do you think it is, Stick?”

“You’re gonna make me say it, aren’t you.”

“That’s my job, Stick.”

“Yeah, I know. OK, here it is. Manoah was full of manure last night.”

“I had to open my big mouth, didn’t I?”

“Your fault, buddy,” McSpidertack said, laughing. “Now tell me what all that was when skipper Hyde comes out of the dugout looking like he wants to take someone in a Toronto uniform apart but also looks like he doesn’t want his guys to do anything of the kind.”

“You need me to tell you that? I don’t think he wanted to take someone apart himself. I think he just wanted Manure—sorry, Manoah—thrown out of the game post haste. Which is exactly what he got. After he returned a few, shall we say, vulgar mash notes from Charlie Montoyo.”

“The Blue Jays manager.”

“Yeah.”

McSpidertack excused himself a moment to refill his morning coffee. I needed another coffee jolt myself while he was at it. When he came back, I said, “Did you see Manure–sorry, Manoah again—talking to the press after the game?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you hear him say he tried to slip that fastball in and it got away?”

“Yeah,” McSpidertack said. “And if I had a dollar for every time I tried to get a fastball in that got away, I could buy that Antarctican beach club of yours.”

“No you couldn’t, Stick,” I said. “You said yourself your career was over before it really began. You didn’t really have time to learn how to slip runaway fastballs inside. At most you’d have had enough to buy me a new set of guitar strings.”

“Then the dog ate his homework.”