WASHINGTON -- Braves manager Brian Snitker held back tears as he attempted to update the status of Charlie Culberson, who was transported to a nearby hospital after being hit in the face with a pitch during the seventh inning of a 10-1 win over the Nationals on Saturday afternoon at
WASHINGTON -- Braves manager Brian Snitker held back tears as he attempted to update the status of Charlie Culberson, who was transported to a nearby hospital after being hit in the face with a pitch during the seventh inning of a 10-1 win over the Nationals on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park.
“You have one of your teammates that everybody loves in this room,” Snitker said before a long pause. “So just pray for Charlie.”
Postgame thoughts were focused on Culberson, who was attempting to bunt when he was struck below the right eye by Fernando Rodney’s 90.9 mph fastball. The beloved utility player immediately went to the ground and remained there for a few minutes. Blood dripped off his face while he was being tended to by Braves medical personnel.
“I think it was bones around his eye, and the report I got is that when they took him to the hospital, he was aware,” Snitker said. “Hopefully [the prognosis is good], I don’t know. We just have to wait and see. We just hope and pray for the best.”
The Braves are not expected to update Culberson’s status before Sunday morning. But there’s certainly reason to anticipate the 30-year-old veteran sustained an injury that will likely sideline him for the remainder of the season.
Beyond thoughts of what Culberson could do for the Braves over the remainder of the regular season, the Braves were concerned about the well-being of their teammate.
“He’s just one of the best teammates you could have,” right-hander Mike Foltynewicz said. “I look up to him as a father. He has two kids, and this is one of his kid’s birthday. When you see something like that happen, just a bunch of things go through your head.”
After rising to his feet, Culberson was carted off the field. As he rode by the mound, he gave a thumbs up sign to Rodney indicating he understood there was no intent with the pitch that was delivered with two on and none out in the seventh inning of a 1-1 game.
"It was awful,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “You never wish that upon anybody. You don't. I hope he's all right and my plan is to talk to [Snitker] either tonight or tomorrow and make sure he's all right and I know they get it, it stinks, but it's part of it. I know Rodney feels awful. I just hope Culberson's all right."
While Martinez’s concern is genuine, he drew some ire from the Braves clubhouse when he asked home-plate umpire Tim Timmons to ask first-base umpire Bill Welke whether Culberson offered at the pitch. Timmons said he was solely focused on Culberson’s well-being before receiving this request.
When Snitker realized a strike had been called once Welke ruled Culberson was still offering to bunt when struck, he went into a rage that continued after he was ejected by Welke.
“You can’t bunt the ball when the ball’s coming at your face,” Snitker said. “I’m not going to get into all that but that’s … yeah, I’m sitting there looking at this guy, pool of blood on the ground. Like, come on.”
When asked if there are situations when an umpire has to be sympathetic to what was essentially a defenseless batter, Timmons said, “We’re always sympathetic to a guy hit in the eye. But the rules are the rules. He had him offering at the pitch, and that’s what we had.”
“That’s a ridiculous call,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “You can’t move. He didn’t make an attempt at it. He squared around and tried to get out of the way. It’s just bad all the way around.”
After Adam Duvall struck out to complete Culberson’s plate appearance, the Braves tallied four runs during the decisive seventh and exited the game with a 10 1/2-game lead over the Nationals in the National League East race.
But thoughts about taking another step toward a division title were secondary after the Braves claimed their latest win over the Nationals. The somber clubhouse mood validated the long-known fact that Culberson is one of the most beloved and respected people within the Braves’ organization.
“You just hope for the best,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “You just hope it didn’t get him directly in the eye. You hate to see stuff like that happen.”
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.