Washington Nationals’ pitcher Austin Voth left Sunday’s 12-6 loss to Philadelphia after a Vince Velasquez fastball hit him in the face.
Voth’s nose was broken, Nationals manager Davey Martinez told reporters after the game, and the pitcher remained in Philly overnight for treatment and will likely just return to D.C. while the team travels on to Tampa Bay.
“He’s in pain,” said Martinez. “They said he probably won’t be able to do things for a few days, and then they’ll probably reevaluate, so we’ll see how he’s doing tomorrow.”
Voth had tossed two perfect innings against the Phillies, throwing only 24 pitches.
When he went to the plate in the third inning with no score, nobody out, and the speedy Victor Robles on first base, it was no secret that he was bunting.
But Phillies’ right-hander Vince Velasquez’s command was off quite a bit. Robles had already reached when Velasquez’s first pitch, an 83-mph slider, went up and in on the right-handed hitter, striking him in the arm.
Even with Voth giving away his intention on every pitch, it wasn’t easy to tell where Velasquez’s four-seam fastballs would end up, and he quickly got behind 3-1.
The next pitch, a four-seam fastball at more than 90 miles an hour, stayed up, sailed in, and struck the side of Voth’s batting helmet before deflecting into his nose.
Voth fell, got up on one knee, and with blood visible on his face, walked off the field without assistance. Joe Ross pinch ran and was stranded at third base after Victor Robles scored the game’s first run.
Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora also suffered a head injury in the first inning when Josh Bell fouled a pitch off the front of his face mask.
O’Nora remained standing but walked a few steps and, after taking a minute to compose himself, re-took his position behind the plate to finish the at-bat, a three-pitch strikeout. But during Odubel Herrera’s at-bat the next half inning, O’Nora ran off the field holding his hand to his mouth. Crew Chief Fieldin Culbreth replaced O’Nora behind the plate, and the game continued with three umpires.
Voth’s injury was the most extreme example of a few balls that got away from pitchers on a 90-degree, humid day when it was clearly hard to grip the baseball. They also came after news this week that baseball will more strictly enforce the rule forbidding pitchers from using foreign substances on the ball, including pine tar.
Martinez says the players’ health is his main concern, and he doesn’t want to see batters get hit.
“You’ll see more of that if we keep messing around with the stuff about the balls,” he told reporters in the postgame Zoom call. “I mean, really. I understand that they’re trying to clean some stuff up, but the balls — it’s hot, it’s slippery, if you’re sweaty.
“I know Velasquez didn’t throw in there intentionally,“ he continued. “But I’m afraid that if we don’t come up with something, something unified for everybody, that you’ll see a lot more of that.”
Martinez noted the problem on Friday, when word came out that baseball might punish pitchers for concealing pine tar.
“You put nothing on that ball and you get your hands all sweaty, those balls are going to slip,” Martinez said. “There’s no doubt about it, they’re going to slip, and I just hope that nobody really gets hurt, and I know they’re looking. MLB is doing their due diligence, looking at all kinds of different things, how to make this better, so hopefully they’ll come up with something real soon.”
After Sunday’s game, he reiterated that hope.
‘That’s a scary feeling because these guys thrown 95-96-97. Some guys throw 100,” he said.
“Hopefully they’ll come up with some kind of happy medium to resolve the whole baseball issue with the sticky stuff.”
Martinez reasons that if batters are allowed to use sticky substances to keep the bat from flying out of their hands, pitchers should be allowed to use something to get a grip on the ball.
“Batters use pine tar on their bats, you know, and some sticky spray and the sticky stick, whatever, because the bats do slip, and that’s also dangerous,” he explained. “Back when I played I’ve seen fans get hit with bats, and it was scary. Now that we got the nets up it ain’t so bad. But it’s scary when something is flying over your head or balls are flying over your head.”
Reliever Kyle Finnegan was also frightened by Voth’s injury.
“That’s a scary moment. It’s a tough situation,” said Finnegan. “You hate to see that happen to a guy, ball running up and in on him...We’re hoping that he’s going to be alright.”
The play ruined Martinez’s day.
“My mood really swung when I saw Voth get hit,“ he said. “And from that moment on I wasn’t happy.
“I know he didn’t him on purpose, but just — it stinks. And you start worrying about Voth, but we have to keep playing the game.”