A 20-year-old rising star has become the victim of a ‘completely classless’ act that has fans furious, including some in Australia.
You probably haven’t heard the name Ronald Acuna Jr, but he’s the talk of the baseball world right now.
The Atlanta Braves rookie has been in scintillating form lately, spending the last few days hammering Miami Marlins pitching.
Acuna has led-off each of the first three games of the four-game series with a home run, and has homered in a Braves record-tying five straight games.
He was looking to become just the second player in MLB history to lead off four-straight games with a home run on Thursday (AEST), but the Marlins had other ideas.
In the final game of the series, the Marlins flipped the script in a painful way when starting pitcher Jose Urena drilled Acuña in the elbow with their first pitch of the game.
The 157km/h fastball hit Acuña square in the left elbow and left the hot-hitting rookie in pain.
The situation then escalated into a benches-clearing scuffle as the Braves were left furious over what they thought was an intentional act.
It’s never easy to be 100% sure about a pitcher’s intentions when hitting a batter, but a damning statistic says it all.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Urena really ramped up the speed of his pitch, recording the fastest pitch he’s ever thrown on the first delivery of a game.
The pitch that hit Ronald Acuña was 97.5 MPH.
Out of the 2,125 pitches that José Ureña has thrown this season, that's in the 99th percentile of the fastest pitches he's thrown.
That was also the fastest pitch José Ureña has ever thrown to open a game. pic.twitter.com/KYLVQvqER8
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 16, 2018
Urena was eventually ejected from the game – the first time a pitcher has been ejected for hitting the first batter since John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels hit Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers in 2009.
The game resumed after a brief delay, but the Braves weren’t ready to let it go, taking a dig on Twitter.
Here we have a pitcher actually challenging his opponent and successfully getting him out. pic.twitter.com/muf2XGfgRX
— Atlañññññta Braves (@Braves) August 16, 2018
Fans and experts were also livid that Urena had taken such unsportsmanlike measures to slow down the red-hot rookie.
Don’t want Acuña to hit leadoff DINGERS on you? Pitch better. Bush league.
— Evan Bagwell (@EJBagwell) August 16, 2018
Jose Urena you are gutless, spineless and disgusting…..
Great rookie who plays the game the right way and now some scrub pitcher on a pathetic team knocks him out of the game and who knows how serious….
BULL$%##!!! BULL$#%$!! BULL#@$%!!!!@680TheFan
— steakshapiro (@steakshapiro) August 16, 2018
Ronald Acuna Jr is a JOY to watch and a huge asset for the game of baseball. What Jose Urena did tonight was awful. And he should be suspended at minimum for however long Acuna is out.
— Ryan Ruocco (@RyanRuocco) August 16, 2018
Who are you to intentionally hit and injure a young player like Ronald Acuña Jr. because he’s been on fire showing everyone why he’s in the league???
— Chris LaDuke (@Iadukeee) August 16, 2018
Seriously. Marlins pitcher should be suspended. Manager, too. Acuna’s only sin was being better at baseball than the Marlins.
If that warrants a 97.5 mph beanball, then the entire NL is gonna have some sore leadoff hitters…
— Josh Johnson (@JoshWeather) August 16, 2018
— lucas pastick (@LucasPastick) August 16, 2018
@MLB if there is not swift justice for Acuña, you are inviting more bush league behavior like the @Marlins displayed tonight. They took away an opportunity for a 20 year old young man to make history. What an embarrassment of an organization.
— Jordan Davis (@tjdavis3) August 16, 2018
Ronald Acuna Jr. (20 yrs old) is the youngest player in MLB history to homer in 5 consecutive games. He looked to extend that tonight. The Miami Marlins chose to ruin that by intentionally hitting him first pitch of the game. No respect for the Marlins organization. BUSH LEAGUE!
— Cody Lovelace (@cody_lovelace4) August 16, 2018
And the anger has made it all the way to Australia, where Acuna played with the Melbourne Aces in 2016.
The Australian Baseball League changed its name on Twitter to ‘Acuna Baseball League’, joining the viral #WeStandWithAcuna movement.
— Acuña Baseball League (@ABL) August 16, 2018
— Melbourne Aces ⚾️✈️ (@MelbourneAces) August 16, 2018
You mess with Ronald Acuña Jr, you mess with us … and a WHOLE lot of Twitter users apparently! #WeStandWithAcuña 👊
— Acuña Baseball League (@ABL) August 16, 2018
— Andrew Williams (@The_AndrewLee) August 16, 2018
So an idiot on the @Marlins pitching staff throws a 98 mph fastball at Acuna’s elbow because the rest of his team couldn’t stop throwing the @Braves player HR balls over the last 3 games and ATL still wins #ChopOn #Braves #WeStandWithAcuna
— Lee Parks (@Leeparkslawyer) August 16, 2018