Reliever Smith ejected for foreign substance in Brewers’ ugly loss

Milwaukee Brewers left-hander Will Smith was ejected Thursday night after umpires detected a foreign substance on his right arm. 

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning and an 0-1 count on Jace Peterson, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez summoned home plate umpire Chris Segal to point out the substance.

Crew chief Jim Joyce went to the mound and immediately ejected Smith after touching the substance on the reliever’s right arm.  

Afterward, the Braves used a seven-run seventh inning to turn a pitcher’s duel into a 10-1 rout of the Brewers at Turner Field. Six of Atlanta’s seven runs in the seventh came after Smith’s ejection, as the inning spiraled out of control for Milwaukee.  

"It was chilly and kind of windy," Smith said. "I had sunscreen and rosin on my arm. I just forgot to wipe it off before I went out and pitched. I kind of had to get ready in a hurry and just forgot. That’s it." 

Smith entered in relief of starter Matt Garza with two on and nobody out in a 2-1 game in the seventh. The left-hander jumped ahead 0-2 on Pedro Ciriaco before a slider bounced in the dirt and hit the pinch-hitter in the leg to load the bases. 

After a first-pitch strike to Peterson, Gonzalez popped out of the dugout to begin the sequence of events that led to the ejection. 

"It was about as plain as it can be," Gonzalez said. "It was pretty blatant, really. It is glistening through the lights. You could see it in the dugout. I never went out there until he went to it.

"You can look at the video. I think the whole time he pitched to Ciriaco, he never went to his wrist. But the first or second pitch to Peterson, he went to it. That’s when I went out to the home plate umpire to check. I’m sure they got a better look than I did from the dugout, but it didn’t take them very long to eject him." 

Smith handed the ball to Joyce and shouted profanities at the Atlanta dugout as he left the field. 

Braves 10, Brewers 1

"I was upset," Smith said. "I’m a competitor. Obviously you want to stay in the game and you want to pitch. It was a big situation. Obviously you want to be in there. I was pissed that I got thrown out." 

Brewers manager Craig Counsell was not pleased with Gonzalez’s decision to go to the umpire. Players throughout baseball, both on and off the record, have said they prefer pitchers using substances that help with grip in order to prevent hit by pitches.

"It happens everywhere in the league," Counsell said. "And it happens on his team, too." 

Counsell was then asked if he sees a time when it is OK for a manager to point out a foreign substance to an umpire. 

"When I’m seeing three of our guys getting hit in the head (this season), not really," Counsell said.

Smith disagreed with the notion that foreign substances give pitchers a competitive advantage on the mound. 

"You want to be able to feel the ball," Smith said. "That’s it. It is just grip. It isn’t going to spin more. You aren’t going to throw harder. You’ve got what you’ve got." 

Rule 8.02(a) in Major League Baseball’s rulebook states that a pitcher will be immediately ejected and face an automatic 10-game suspension if they "apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball."

It is unclear if Joyce ruled Smith used the substance on the baseball or just had it on his arm. Regardless, Counsell admitted the Brewers are resigned to the fact Smith will be suspended for the incident. 

"Every pitcher does it," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "As a hitter you want them to do it so they have a better grip, so we don’t get hit in the head . . . but just hide it better next time."

Neal Cotts came on to allow a single to Peterson, while Michael Blazek then gave up three straight run-scoring hits. A throwing error by second baseman Hector Gomez allowed Atlanta’s seventh run of the inning to score to put the Braves up 8-1.

Smith, who is from Newnan, Ga., has had a rough time playing near his hometown. Almost a year to date on May 22 of last season, former Brewers manager Ron Roenicke summoned a left-hander from his bullpen in the seventh inning without having a lefty warming up at the time. 

The umpiring crew forced Roenicke to bring in Smith, who received just the allotted eight warmup pitches after Gonzalez refused a request to allow more warm-up tosses. 

Smith then allowed a two-run single to Ryan Doumit, which gave the Braves a 5-4 lead. 

The Brewers and Braves are in the midst of a four-game series that concludes Sunday afternoon. Though frustrated by Gonzalez’s decision, Counsell brushed aside the thought of potential retaliation.   

"We’re going to try to beat them the next three days," Counsell said. "That’s the best retaliation."

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