Another extremely ugly pitching hit stole the show in Monday night baseball.
With the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a 1-0 game between the Mets and Braves, Kevin Pillar was hit in the face with a 94 mph fastball thrown by Braves reliever Jacob Webb. Blood immediately began to gush from Pillar’s nose as he helplessly crawled around the batter’s box and awaited medical help. The resulting blood had to be dusted and mixed with dirt by the field team before play could be resumed. The delay was also felt emotionally necessary. All the players seemed to be shocked to some degree, and that took the life out of the broadcast.
A bloody pillar, who underwent a CT scan at a hospital Monday night, was able to get out of the field fairly quickly despite the bleakness of the situation. He later tweeted an encouraging update as well, saying he was “doing well” and proudly noting that he was credited with the game-winning RBI in New York’s 3-1 win, strengthening his tough-guy credentials. . The Mets announced on tuesday that Pilar “suffered multiple nasal fractures. She will meet with a facial specialist in Atlanta to determine next steps.”
Obviously, these things happen in baseball, but players have been hit far too often, in fact, at a historic rate. This season he has averaged nearly one batter per game, according to Illustrated SportsTom Verducci, as the four seasons with the most pitches since 1901 are this year (0.92 batters per game), last year (0.92), last year (0.84), and last year (0.80 ). .
This isn’t even the first time Pillar has been hit in the face with a pitch in his career. He was also hit on the chin by San Diego’s Dinelson Lamet in 2019, though he was able to keep playing because he hit his shoulder first to take the brunt of his strength away.
Back then, Pillar said: “For me, the biggest challenge was being able to step back in the area against the same guy. I was able to do that and stay there and I didn’t feel like it affected me at all. As scary as it is, it happens very infrequently in the game. “
Late last month, Bryce Harper was punched in the face with a 96.9 mph plunge thrown by Cardinals reliever Genesis Cabrera. It was terrifying for everyone. Cabrera jerked and proceeded to sink Didi Gregorius with his next pitch. Like Pillar, Harper was fine. The Phillies right fielder lost time with a wrist injury, which was hit after the pitch bounced off his face, but avoided serious trouble.
Giancarlo Stanton, then with the Marlins, missed the final weeks of the 2014 season when he was hit in the face with a Mike Fiers fastball at 88 mph in a game against the Brewers in Milwaukee. The field team needed to clean up all the blood in the batter’s box after Stanton was placed on a stretcher and taken off the field in an ambulance. Stanton suffered a facial laceration, dental damage, and multiple facial fractures, including to his orbital bone. As serious as his injuries were, things could have been a lot worse.
“I was very lucky,” Stanton said a week later. “I could have my mouth shut now. I could have a plate in my face. I could have a lot of things. I’ll remove some missing teeth for all that.”
“You hear about people losing their eyes or losing their vision,” he said. “They can break my jaw. I can lose so many teeth. As long as I can see, that’s the most important thing in my career.”
Stanton wasn’t sure how he would react when he returned after such a traumatic experience, either. While recovering that offseason, Stanton used a pitching machine throwing into fastballs to get comfortable staying in the box again. Since then, he has worn a face shield attached to his helmet, and says having the added protection is comforting.
Hopefully Pillar will once again overcome the mental hurdles he will face to return to the batter’s box. I got grazed on the back by a couple of pitches in elementary school, and they derailed my confidence for almost an entire season. Obviously I’m not a major league player, and that was a long way from what Pillar and others have endured. But it can be scary to back down the path of heaters that have the potential to knock you out. Devils made Cam Newton drop out of baseball in high school.
And while punches per pitch may occur infrequently in the game’s grand scheme, they have risen to unprecedented levels and pitchers are pitching harder than ever. Superstars like Harper, Mike Trout, Corey Seager, Ronald Acuña Jr., Mookie Betts and Shohei Ohtani have already been forced to waste time this season after being knocked down. This is becoming a player safety issue that could decrease the value of the MLB product. The NFL has tried to discourage blows to the head, and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred should do the same.
ESPN announcers said Pillar’s absence overshadowed the stadium Monday, despite the Mets playing on the road in Atlanta. Does MLB, already struggling to adapt baseball to a modern audience, want to see this trend continue and allow more agony to seep into the sport? Will they wait for another player to follow in the footsteps of Ray Chapman, whose death in 1920 after being hit in the head sparked an offensive against tampered balls?
Perhaps the answer is to demand some kind of extended face mask for hitters, similar to the one Stanton wears. Maybe he’s backing the mound a few feet to give players more reaction time (which would also help alleviate the sport’s stifling number of strikeouts). Whatever it is, it’s time to stop ignoring this as part of the game and look for a solution before someone else gets seriously hurt.
More MLB coverage:
• Verducci: What’s Behind Baseball’s Field Hitting Epidemic?
• Martell: MLB must amend three-hitter rule after terrifying situation
• Laws: Pujols surpasses Bumgarner in ideal Dodgers debut
• Verducci: Inside the Devastating Concert Economy of the Relay Toss
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.