Washington Nationals rookie catcher Keibert Ruiz left Saturday night’s 10-7 loss to Pittsburgh after a Kyle Keller pitch hit him in the head. Manager Davey Martinez said afterward that X-rays were negative, and that Ruiz would be re-evaluated on Sunday.
It was the end of a brief but eventful night for the 23-year-old, one of the key pieces of the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deadline deal, along with battery-mate Josiah Gray.
Ruiz was in on two pivotal plays in the game before leaving in the sixth inning, a mistake on a play at the plate and a clutch three-run double.
“It was awesome to see him come through right there, big three runs for us,” Martinez told reporters afterward.
“I thought after that he was going to have a good night and he gets one off the side of the face.”
Ruiz made a key defensive mistake in the third inning on a play at the plate that gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Gray had walked the bases loaded around a sacrifice bunt and a strikeout, and Colin Moran took Gray’s 1-2 fastball to right field, easily scoring Hoy Park from third to make it 1-0.
However, the Pirates challenged Juan Soto’s arm in right, sending Yoshi Tsutsugo home from second. The throw beat Tsutsugo easily, but Ruiz set up in the right-handed batter’s box, instead of in front of the plate, blocking Tsutsugo’s path.
Tsutsugo’s slide went behind Ruiz, and he never touched the plate, but Ruiz bobbled the ball as Tsutsugo began his slide and recovered it in time to tag the runner out.
The Pirates appealed the play, and Tsutsugo was ruled safe. Gray then struck out Ben Gamel to end the inning, which also included Ruiz’s first throwing error of the season on a pickoff attempt.
Ruiz atoned for his mistakes in the next inning, with the bases loaded and two down, driving a Wil Crowe curveball to the gap in right-center for a bases-clearing double that doubled his season RBI total to six.
“Great swing, he got back, got ready on time, and put a nice easy swing on it,” Martinez said afterward. “When he hits the ball, he typically hits it hard.”
Ruiz’s night ended abruptly in the sixth, with right-hander Kyle Keller coming on as the third Pirates’ pitcher. Ruiz fouled off his first pitch, high and outside. The next one, a 95 mph four-seam fastball from the right-hander hit Ruiz mostly on the right ear flap of his helmet, but appeared to catch a bit of his cheek.
After some attention from Martinez and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard, Ruiz left the game and was replaced at first base by Riley Adams.
After the game, Martinez said the catcher was day-to-day.
“X-rays were negative. He’s got a slight headache, which I’m glad that’s all he has. But he said he feels fine, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” said the manager.