Nelson sustains bruise on line drive to head
Right-hander exits on own power during scary scene in third inning
MILWAUKEE -- Thursday night's 6-3 loss to the Cardinals seemed secondary. So, too, the three Brewers errors, and the fact they were one Jean Segura swing with two out in the ninth inning from being shut out by St. Louis for the sixth time this season.
In the home clubhouse, there was a palpable sense of relief. Starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson, a 26-year-old cornerstone of the Brewers' current rebuilding project, was bruised, but apparently otherwise unscathed after being struck in the head by a 108-mph line drive -- according to Statcast™ -- in the third inning.
"We're very, very fortunate," manager Craig Counsell said.
Nelson was struck on the right side of the head by a liner that left Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham's bat and caromed off Nelson's head into foul ground for a run-scoring double. Nelson laid face-down on the mound for a few moments, then rose to his knees while being examined by athletic trainers Dan Wright and Dave Yeager. Nelson eventually walked off the field under his own power.
According to the club, Nelson was lucid as he left the ballpark to undergo a CT scan at a local hospital. That test revealed no fractures, only a bruise, and Nelson remained hospitalized overnight for observation.
"Really, really scary for me," said third baseman Elian Herrera, who distractedly retrieved the ball after Nelson was hit. "What I saw was the ball hit right in his face. I worry for all my teammates, and when something like that happens, I was just praying for him to be OK."
Herrera added: "It's no matter how strong you are. When you get hit like that, you're going to go down."
Pham was so shaken, he almost forgot to run the bases.
"That's exactly what happened," he said. "Line drive like that and you see it go off his head, the first thing that went through my head was if he was all right. I had to kind of remind myself to run. That's the first time that's happened to me. It is kind of a big shocker."
Informed that it appeared Nelson was OK, Pham said, "That's good news. I was expecting worse."
"That was a scary moment," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I couldn't believe how hard that ball was hit and how quick it got on him."
Reliever David Goforth took over with the Brewers in a 3-0 deficit and promptly surrendered Jason Heyward's RBI single. But Goforth rallied to deliver four respectable innings.
"It was still kind of a thought when I was first warming up, hoping he was all right," Goforth said. "But after some time passed, you have to go out and do your job, too."
With four earned runs allowed on Thursday, Nelson's ERA rose to 4.11 in 30 starts. He's surrendered 13 earned runs in 12 innings over his last three starts.
Assuming Nelson is OK beyond the bruise, Counsell was asked what's next. He did not yet have an answer.
"I think the next couple of days, we'll have to monitor and make sure he's OK," Counsell said. "We'll go from there."