A strong sense of concern filled Truist Park on Monday night when Braves reliever Jacob Webb hit Pillar’s face with a fastball. The wayward pitch, tossed with the bases loaded, put a damper on a 3-1 loss to the Mets, who surrendered just three hits despite losing their own starting pitcher after just three innings.
“That’s about as sickening a thing you can see on a baseball field, when a kid gets hit like that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I just keep that kid in my prayers. Hopefully everything will work out OK, because this guy is nothing but a pro, the way he handles himself and the way he plays the game.”
Thoughts and concerns remained with Pillar, who created some reason for optimism when he tweeted, “Scary moment, but I’m doing fine," after undergoing a CT scan at a nearby hospital.
This encouraging update from the Mets outfielder stood as one of the few positive developments experienced by the Braves, who are three games below .500 (19-22) and three games behind first-place New York (19-16). Their bullpen extended its recent woes, and their offense once again proved maddening. Fried’s two-out single in the third inning accounted for the only baserunner Atlanta produced before Austin Riley homered in the eighth against Trevor May.
Acuña returned to the Braves’ lineup for the first time since he twisted his left ankle during Thursday’s loss to the Blue Jays. He went hitless in four at-bats. Acuña's ankle was tested when he fell while overrunning Johneshwy Fargas’ RBI double in the eighth. But he didn’t show any lingering signs of discomfort.
“He’s healthy and good,” Snitker said. “I’m sure they’ll keep wrapping his ankle up every day, but he is fine.”
Injuries have weakened the Braves’ rotation throughout the season. Mike Soroka's return is questionable, and Fried missed three weeks earlier this season with a right hamstring strain. The only consistently dependable starter has been Huascar Ynoa, who broke his right hand when he punched the dugout bench during Sunday’s loss in Milwaukee.
Before Monday’s game, Snitker announced Ynoa will likely miss a few months, and it will be another month before the Braves know whether there’s reason to even hope Soroka might pitch this season. So it certainly wasn’t comforting to see Fried lifted after he allowed Tomás Nido’s leadoff double in the seventh inning.
But the Braves created some relief when they announced Fried’s exit was just a product of cramping in his left hand, which may have been caused by dehydration. The lefty also suggested it might have been caused by the fact he had used antibiotics to battle an illness the past few days.
“It was just an isolated thing that happened,” Snitker said. “You just don’t want to take any chances. I don’t think it should be a good deal.”
The Braves struggled to take advantage of Mets starter Taijuan Walker exiting after just three innings because of tightness in his left side. But New York immediately benefited from the exit of Fried, who kept the game scoreless through six innings.
Webb relieved Fried and promptly allowed James McCann’s go-ahead double. The right-handed reliever then issued a pair of walks, including an intentional walk to Dominic Smith to load the bases. He got ahead of Pillar with an 0-2 count before hitting the Mets outfielder with a 1-2 fastball.
Pillar fell to his knees in the batter’s box, but he was able to walk to the dugout under his own power after being checked by medical staff.
"Nobody in the ballpark thought [Webb] was trying to do that on purpose,” Braves catcher Jeff Mathis said. “ He felt terrible. That was obviously nothing he wanted to do. But it is a part of baseball. As much as it stinks, all we can do is hope that he is OK."