In a scene so chilling it caused fans at Miller Park to squirm and turn their heads, blood gushed from the mouth of Giancarlo Stanton as he lay by home plate after being struck in the face by a pitch in Thursday’s fifth inning.
Stanton's season ended Thursday when a Mike Fiers pitch struck him in the face, causing "multiple facial fractures," "dental damage" and a "facial laceration requiring stitches," according to the Marlins.
"It's devastating for us," said Marlins manager Mike Redmond. "For his season to end like that, that's not good. We just lost the MVP."
The 88 mile-per-hour fastball thrown by Fiers was anything but a glancing blow, as it appeared to strike Stanton flush on the left side of his face. There was so much blood that the grounds crew brought out scrapers to remove it from the batter’s box before play resumed.Stanton was lifted onto a stretcher and carted off the field in an ambulance.
Obviously, the loss of Stanton for any length of time would be a major blow to the Marlins.
Stanton is not only the National League’s home run and RBI leader, but is also a leading candidate for league Most Valuable Player honors. He has played in every game this season, helping to keep the Marlins on the bottom fringe of wild-card playoff contention.
But that season now looks to be over.
"We probably lost the MVP of the National League for the rest of the year," said Marlins outfielder Reed Johnson. "It's probably going to take some time to get him back, and there's just seems like there's probably not going to be enough time to get him back."
With runners at second and third and two outs in the fifth, Stanton stepped in to face Fiers. But the right-hander’s 0-1 pitch came straight in on Stanton’s face and he was unable to duck away in time.
Stanton fell immediately, and trainers for both teams rushed out to check on him.
Stanton’s father, who was seated in the front row next to the Marlins’ dugout, was brought onto the field to see his son, saying a few words to him before he was carted away.
Fiers appeared to be visibly shaken, squatting and looking on from near the mound as medical personnel tended to Stanton. Marlins players looked on from the dugout, speechless.
"It's tough to finish out a ballgame when one of your big boys goes down like that," Johnson said.
But after play resumed, tensions escalated when Fiers very next pitch also came in high and struck the hand of Johnson, who had been sent in to finish Stanton’s at bat.
Angry Marlins players and coaches stormed onto the field, some pointing fingers, and the Brewers dugout emptied as well. Umpires ejected Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee, who had to be physically restrained, and manager Mike Redmond was also thrown out.
No punches were thrown, however, and order was restored.
"It was up around my face as well," Johnson said. "I think that's why you started getting some chirping from our dugout. He was up around everybody's hands and face the whole night. I think that's why kind of the frustration set in at that point. It's one of those things where we're not saying you can't pitch in. There were a lot of balls up around guys' faces tonight, and one of them gets our big boy, so that's tough for us."
What Johnson said most upset the Marlins was Fiers' reaction.
"I think guys were chirping and he looked over like, throws his arms up in the air," Johnson said. "That's what guys got upset with. You just hit one of our guys in the face and he's probably done for the year. I don't know what you expect the reaction to be from our dugout."
Redmond was also angry with Fiers.
"He hit a guy in the mouth, number one," Redmond said. "After he hit Reed in the hand, he looks in our dugout, throws his hands up in the air like 'Hey, why are you guys mad?' You just knocked out our best player, hit him in the mouth, and then you just hit another guy in the hand. What are we supposed to do? What type of reaction do you think we're trying to give you?"
Fiers said he didn't try to hit anyone intentionally and expressed remorse afterward.
“It's very tough,” a distraught Fiers said after the game. “I've never in my life experienced anything like that. It was very hard for me to take in everything at the moment and come back and throw another pitch.
“I just want to send my thoughts and prayers to Giancarlo Stanton. I would never think of throwing at somebody like that. Never in my life has something like that happened. I'm very sad that it hit them. I'm very sorry to their teammates, their fans, his family. It's just tough.”
Fiers was unhappy that Marlins players screamed at him, though.
“A lot of tempers were flaring,” said Fiers. “For them to think that it was intentional is beyond me, and something I would never do. It was heat-of-the-moment stuff. I just want to make sure that Stanton's OK. I understand their feelings and everything they were thinking. They've got to respect their teammate and back him up.”
Umpires ruled that Johnson struck out on the pitch, though, which further infuriated the Marlins. Warnings were issued to both benches, but that didn’t stop Marlins rookie Anthony DeSclafani from drilling Carlos Gomez in the left elbow with a sixth-inning pitch in what was likely
retaliation for the Stanton beaning. Marlins bench coach Rob Leary, who took over for Redmond, was ejected automatically, as was DeSclafani. Third base coach Brett Butler took over as manager.
Gomez did not react and took his base.
With 37 homers and 105 RBI , Stanton is having one of the best individual seasons in Marlins history.
The Marlins intend to offer their slugger a contract extension after the season, hoping he’ll accept and remain in Miami beyond 2016, the first year he is eligible for free agency. But Stanton has deflected most discussion about his future with the Marlins, saying he prefers to focus on the season and helping the team get to the playoffs.
Those chances likely took a major hit, both literally and figuratively, when Stanton went down Thursday in what turned into a 4-2 loss that left the Marlins 5 1/2 games out in the wild card race.