The action began with Nationals reliever Steve Cishek facing Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor with no outs and a man on second. With an 0-1 count, Lindor squared up to bunt only for Cishek to throw a ball way high and inside.
The 89-mph ball hit Lindor in the head and knocked his helmet off. The shortstop immediately fell to the ground. A furious Mets manager Buck Showalter quickly walked onto the field to yell at either Cishek or the umps, triggering both dugouts and bullpens to clear for group yelling and shoving.
Tensions flare and the benches clear in Washington as Francisco Lindor takes a pitch to the head pic.twitter.com/6QSJROpmHM
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) April 9, 2022
Had it not been for the C-flap on Lindor's helmet, the situation could have been much more serious. Lindor was removed from the game and replaced by Luis Guillorme at shortstop. Per ESPN's Jeff Passan, X-rays came back negative for Lindor's jaw and he passed a concussion test after his removal.
Cishek was eventually ejected, leaving the Nationals to bring in Sean Doolittle. Nationals third base coach Gary DiSarcina was also ejected. Crew chief Mark Carlson told a pool reporter after the game that Cishek was ejected for his actions after the pitch.
It's unclear why Showalter, who initiated the confrontation, was not ejected. Following the game, the Mets manager erroneously attributed Cishek's ejection to the pitch rather than what happened after, calling it a "good move" by the umpires. He also called Lindor "lucky" for avoiding further injury and said "these things can't happen," via MLB.com's Anthony DiComo.
The inning ended with three straight outs by Doolittle to limit the damage for the Nationals, who fell behind 4-3 earlier in the inning on an RBI double by Starling Marte. The Mets would eventually win 7-3.
Lindor said after the game that Cishek apologized to him for the errant pitch, which he said he respected, per Newsday's Tim Healey.
Hit by pitches have been a recurring sight this series, as the Mets were hit three times by Nationals pitchers on opening day, twice on the helmet. Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer also hit Nationals first baseman Josh Bell. That frustration was almost certainly responsible for Showalter's response — it's hard to see Cishek's HBP being in any way intentional given the count and game situation.
Increased HBPs have been a concern since MLB cracked down on pitchers using illegal sticky substances. While those substances gave many pitchers an advantage by increasing their spin rates, their absence could conceivably cause more pitches to slip away from pitchers. MLB has further cracked down on the substances this year, going as far as checking pitchers' hands following innings.
Showalter acknowledged the problem before Friday's game, via the New York Post:
“I’ve never quite figured out how hitters can have pine tar, batting gloves and wrap their bats — and everything to hold onto the tool they are supposed to work with — but a pitcher can’t,” Showalter said. “Does that seem fair? Hopefully we can find a happy medium, because it is a challenge right now with these guys gripping the baseball.”