The two-seam fastball from Phillies righthander Justin De Fratus dashed inside, forcing Yoenis Cespedes to check his swing and causing an entire franchise to hold its breath.
Cespedes, the outfielder who brought life to the New York Mets, was hit in the hand Wednesday night by De Fratus' 89-m.p.h. fastball in the third inning at Citizens Bank Park. He collapsed to the ground almost instantly, grabbing his hand as a team trainer rushed to his aid.
Cespedes was removed from the game, but the incident may have appeared worse than it really was. The Mets announced that X-ray results were negative. Cespedes was diagnosed with a contusion.
The Phillies hung on for a 7-5 victory in a long, drawn-out affair. A win would have brought the Mets closer to securing home-field advantage in the first round of the postseason. They entered Wednesday with a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers, their likely foe in the divisional round.
And for a moment it looked as if they may have had to forge into the playoffs without the player who helped solidify them as contenders. Cespedes has batted .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBIs in 53 games since being acquired from Detroit at the trade deadline.
The Phillies have 97 losses. They will need to win three of their final four games to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961. Each loss brings hope as the Phillies close in on baseball's worst record and clinching the top pick in the 2016 draft.
Thursday's game was moved to 12:05 p.m. because of the threat of inclement weather as Hurricane Joaquin approaches. The teams cannot afford a postponement because of the Mets' chase for home-field advantage and the Phillies' hunt for the top pick.
The Phillies had a three-game lead over Atlanta and a four-game lead over Cincinnati before Wednesday night's games. The Braves defeated Washington, while the Reds fell to the Chicago Cubs. The Phillies will be awarded the top pick if they finish tied with either team because the Phils had a worse record last year.
Righthander Alec Asher dug the Phillies into a quick five-run hole by allowing a pair of homers in the first inning. He was removed from the game - his final start of the season - after retiring just two batters. Both teams used at least seven pitchers in a game that turned into a marathon.
After Cespedes left the game, the Mets appeared to seek retribution. Odubel Herrera was hit by a pitch in the fifth. The boiling point was reached in the sixth. Mets righthander Hansel Robles threw a fastball near Cameron Rupp's head, causing Rupp to dive to the ground.
Rupp jumped back to his feet and hollered at Robles, who was quickly ejected. Both benches emptied, but there was not much of an on-field altercation. Mets manager Terry Collins was also ejected, but Phillies manager Pete Mackanin remained in the game.
The incident seemed to propel the Phillies. Rupp worked a walk and Chase d'Arnaud followed with a walk of his own. Freddy Galvis drove both in with a single to center, tying the score at 5. Galvis then scored from third with two outs on a wild pitch to take a one-run lead.