Posted on August 16, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
One day after Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Urena hit Ronald Acuna Jr., Major League Baseball has slapped him with a six-game suspension. The incident has become the talk of baseball over the past 24 hours, but for all the wrong reasons. Urena’s suspension will cost him at least one start in addition to getting ejected from Wednesday’s game.
With the first pitch of the game between the Marlins and Braves, Urena hit Acuna with a 97 mph fastball. It was the fastest pitch he’s thrown all season. Urena maintains that he did not throw at Acuna on purpose.
However, the Braves are certain that Urena intended to hit Acuna. Led by Ender Inciarte, the Braves were quick to come out of the dugout while Acuna tried to walk off the sting of getting hit. Both benches cleared before things appeared to calm down. However, Braves manager Brian Snitker continued to implore the umpires to eject Urena. The umpires eventually ejected Urena, but not before both benches cleared again and Snitker was tossed out as well.
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On Thursday, the Commissioner’s office determined that Urena purposely threw at Acuna. The 20-year-old outfielder entered Wednesday’s game with a streak of leadoff home runs in three consecutive games. He also two home runs against the Marlins on Tuesday night, giving him six home runs in his last five games prior to Wednesday. By hitting him, Urena prevented Acuna from extending that streak.
Acuna initially stayed in the game after getting hit. However, he ended up taking himself out an inning later. Scans on his elbow came back negative, which was a huge sigh of relief for the Braves. Acuna was also able to return to Atlanta’s starting lineup on Thursday. Nevertheless, it was a scary moment for the Braves and their young star.
“I thought they made, ultimately, the right decision, because it was obvious that was intended to hit him,” Snitker said Wednesday night. “There’s no reason for a young man to be hit like that when all he’s doing is just playing the game. He’s not doing anything to show anybody up. He’s just playing the game.”
Both the Marlins and Urena maintain that Acuna wasn’t hit on purpose. In his defense, Urena led the majors last season with 14 hit batters. He also has 11 this season, which leads the National League. He does throw inside consistently, giving him some semblance of a defense, even if people aren’t buying it.
“If you watch Jose pitch, pretty much the first pitch of every game is pretty much there,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly explained after Wednesday’s game. “We talked with Jose right after the game, and basically, he was saying, he knows the guy has been swinging the bat good. He was trying to get one close. He was trying to run it off in there, and that was the purpose of his pitch. That’s exactly what he told us.”
Urena intends to appeal the suspension. Since he only threw one pitch on Wednesday, the Marlins could potentially bring him back to pitch this weekend against the Nationals while they wait for MLB to hear his appeal. If he were to drop the appeal, Urena would be eligible to return next weekend when the Marlins host Acuna and the Braves in Miami.
Ultimately, Urena may have got off easy with a six-game suspension. It certainly helps that Acuna wasn’t seriously hurt by the pitch. However, Urena hitting Acuna was undoubtedly intentional. In that sense, the Braves had every right to get mad, and they have every right to remain mad.