On Wednesday, one of the ugliest moments of the MLB season took place.
When star rookie outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. stepped up to the plate against Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Urena, he was aiming for his sixth-consecutive game with a home run, including his fourth-straight with a leadoff blast.
The 20 year old stepped into the box, got into his stance and awaited the first pitch of the game from Urena, who is 3-12 with a 4.74 ERA in 24 starts this season.
What happened next angered an entire fanbase and also sparked strong reactions from MLB fans alike.
Urena ensured that Acuna wouldn’t continue his streak against him, drilling him in the left elbow with a 97.5 mile-per-hour fastball.
It was the fastest pitch Urena has ever thrown to open a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And, most importantly, it appeared to be intentional.
As a result of the play, Acuna stayed on the ground and players from both teams entered the field of play, shouting at each other once he got up to make his way to first base. Urena was ejected, as was Braves manager Brian Snitker, who was the first man to exit the dugout in anger after his young star was beaned.
Acuna stayed in the game until the next inning, when the elbow apparently tightened up a bit. Luckily, per ESPN, a CT scan and x-rays were normal and the elbow did not sustain any serious damage. He was even in the lineup on Thursday, so he avoided what could have been a catastrophic injury.
The league office responded to the incident a day later and punished the pitcher.
Urena was suspended six games and fined an undisclosed amount, via ESPN. The discipline will start on Friday if he doesn't appeal.
It’s worth pointing out that Urena’s action did not end Acuna’s streak. Since he left the game and he got hit during his only plate appearance, it wasn’t technically an at-bat.
This was a case of a mediocre player (Urena) attempting to derail the streaky play of a young superstar (Acuna). Heading into Thursday, the top prospect held a .288 average and had 19 home runs and 43 RBIs in 68 games played.
Since the All-Star break, Acuna has arguably been the best hitter in baseball, hitting .358 with 12 homers in just 25 games.
Therefore, it’s a blessing that he avoided a major injury. Not only will Braves fans now collectively breathe a sigh of relief, but baseball fans in general will be able to watch the young slugger continue his amazing display of hitting moving forward.