NEW YORK — As Matt Manning hobbled into the visitors’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on crutches, the reality of his situation had already set in.
The 25-year-old right-hander missed more than two months of the season with a fractured toe on his right foot after being hit by a comebacker off the bat of the Blue Jays’ Alejandro Kirk on April 11. In the Tigers’ 4-3 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night, lightning struck twice.
In the first inning of his second consecutive start against the Bronx Bombers, Manning was hit on the same foot, only a little higher up, by a comebacker off the bat of Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who launched his 400th career home run on Tuesday. Blasted with an exit velocity of 119.5 mph, per Statcast, Stanton’s rocket connected directly with Manning’s foot and then his backside before the hurler caught it and threw to first base for the out.
After permitting his first two batters faced to reach base, that liner — following a groundout from prized Yanks callup Jasson Domínguez and a three-pitch strikeout of Gleyber Torres — allowed Manning to escape a two-on, two-out jam. But as he threw up his hands and bent over following the play, with manager A.J. Hinch and the Tigers’ medical staff coming out to check on him, it was clear that Manning’s night was over.
“Yeah, kind of right when it happened, I was just annoyed that it was the same foot. Same spot, basically,” Manning said. “And I was like, ‘Ah, I don’t know if it’s broken; I hope it’s not.’ Made the play, though, that’s cool.”
Manning walked off the field under his own power, but X-rays revealed that it was indeed another fracture. And so, his 2023 season is over.
“I feel for him, man,” Hinch said, “because he worked hard to get back. He was throwing the ball very well. He got through that inning, and unfortunately, got in the way of the ball.”
Stanton’s comebacker had the second-hardest exit velocity of any batted ball in the big leagues this season, behind only Ronald Acuña Jr.’s 121.2 mph home run for the Braves on Saturday. That one, of course, only made contact with the netting beyond the center-field wall at Dodger Stadium.
Manning was replaced by reliever Beau Brieske to begin the second inning, turning the contest into another bullpen game for the Tigers one day after they had gone with that approach in the series opener. Detroit used another six pitchers to get through Wednesday, with Brieske taking the loss after allowing three runs on four hits and three walks in 1 2/3 frames.
“You can count probably on one hand how many pitchers have gotten hit in the foot with line drives this season; he’s had it twice. That’s incredibly unlucky,” Hinch said. “119 [mph] off any part of your body is going to probably put you on the injured list. … There’s not much you can do once you go through your delivery and the dude smokes a ball off of you. All you can do is hope that the X-ray is going to come back negative. This one didn’t.”
It’s yet another blow in what has been a young career full of them for Manning, who has not completed a full season since he debuted in the Majors in June 2021. Last year, he dealt with right shoulder inflammation and a right forearm strain.
Manning has made only 15 starts this season, 13 of them since returning from his first fracture on June 27. Still, he pitched well whenever his number was called, especially of late. He had allowed only one earned run (0.38 ERA) over his past four starts and put together 17 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings — the fifth-longest active streak in the Majors — entering Wednesday’s contest. He tossed six scoreless innings in the Tigers’ 4-3 win over the Yankees in Thursday’s finale of a four-game set in Detroit.
That’s what he’s choosing to hold on to in the aftermath of another freak injury.
“I really think the biggest thing now is just staying on the field,” Manning said. “When I am throwing and pitching, I’ve pitched pretty well the last few years. So it’s a matter of just having a little more luck on my side and staying on the field for a full season.”