It's about the scariest occurrence in sports: A batter getting hit in the face with a pitched ball. It happened to slugger Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field in New York on Wednesday afternoon, and he was sent to a local hospital as a result.
Update: Heyward has a broken right jaw and will be out from 4-6 weeks, which could mean through the end of the regular season. It's fractured in two places, X-rays show.
Left-hander Jonathan Niese of the New York Mets apparently lost command of a 90-mph fastball and hit Heyward just below the ear flap on the helmet, on a 1-2 pitch in the top of the sixth inning. Heyward staggered, flicked his helmet off, reached for his face and went to the ground as catcher John Buck and umpire Greg Gibson tended to him. Braves trainer Jeff Porter soon arrived.
It's one thing for fans, teammates and even friends watching on TV to see, but how about this from Braves sideline reporter Tom Hart:
Jason Heyward's grandparents are at the game. They have been ushered to Braves clubhouse.
— Tom Hart (@tom_hart) August 21, 2013
Heyward never appeared to lose consciousness, but he was spitting blood as he lay on the ground near home plate. He soon walked off, continuing to spit blood while being escorted arm-in-arm by Porter. Heyward did tap his heart with his fist — apparently in Niese's direction — perhaps as if to say he'd be OK.
After the game, manager Fredi Gonzalez said to reporters hopefully:
"We'll cross our fingers that it's nothing major."
That wasn't the case, though Gonzalez also noted that Heyward popped his head into the dugout before leaving for the hospital to say good-bye to the rest of the team, which probably will beat Heyward to the Braves' next destination, St. Louis.
Meanwhile, the beaning appeared to rattle Niese, who nervously fidgeted near the mound and tried walking toward Heyward as he lay on the ground. He was ushered away by Buck — probably a good call, given the blood. After Heyward was replaced in the lineup by Jordan Schafer, Niese allowed the tying run. Atlanta won 4-1 in 10 innings on a three-run homer by Chris Johnson.
Heyward has been slowed by injuries this season (and other seasons) but he's slugging over .600 the past three weeks.
It's the second time a catastrophic-looking injury happened to the Braves at Citi Field this season. It's also where pitcher Tim Hudson fractured his ankle in July.