And how he did hear the rumor?
“Well, he pitched here,” Johnson said. “I don’t think it’s a secret.”
Peralta tipped his cap in the direction of the Nationals’ dugout on his way off the field. He claimed he used the same glove in batting practice Tuesday night, and the pine tar had come from the residue of balls while playing catch.
“Good for them,” he said. “They still lose the game.”
Maddon, irate, suggested Nationals players would be perturbed by Johnson’s decision to check Peralta’s glove. Several relievers declined extensive comment and described the incident only as “unfortunate.” One National called Peralta “one of my favorite teammates of all-time.”
After Peralta walked off the mound, Maddon summoned Jake McGee, who retired Lombardozzi, Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper in order. In the top of the ninth, after waiting until there were two outs, Maddon requested the umpires check Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus’s hat.
“I’m not going to take it personal,” Mattheus said. “It’s gamesmanship. We did it to them. I’m sure they wanted to make sure we weren’t at an unfair advantage with something sticky in our gloves. I didn’t take it as an insult.”
Said Tschida: “I told Joe Maddon that this isn’t going to go on all night. So if you want to challenge, you get one. So pick the guy you want and make it count.”
Mattheus handed his hat to Tschida and laughed it off. “I knew I was clean,” Mattheus said.
“The hat was all sweat anyway,” Tschida said. “And the glove was clean as a whistle.”
Mattheus struck out B.J. Upton to end the inning, then took a quick, subtle glance into the Rays’ dugout. Johnson said he did not expect the incident to linger beyond Tuesday night and into the next two games. Maddon did not seem as certain.
“Before you start throwing rocks, understand where you live,” Maddon said.
The Rays could celebrate a victory because of how Wang faltered at the start. Ian Desmond had given Nationals (38-27) a 2-1 lead in the second with his career-high 11th homer of the season.
In the third, Wang fell apart. Desmond Jennings led off with a walk. Carlos Pena followed with a home run to center field that flirted with international airspace. Even after Desmond bailed out Wang by throwing out B.J. Upton at home, Elliott Johnson drilled a two-run, two-out triple off the left-center field wall. The damage: a four-run inning and a 5-2 deficit.
Wang opened the fourth by walking Price, and he would face only one more batter. After the Nationals see how the rest of their now fascinating series against the Rays plays, they may face a decision on their fifth starter.