PITTSBURGH -- All the buildup behind a series that will shape the final National League Central standings became meaningless in the seventh inning of the Cardinals' 3-0 win Monday night, as PNC Park fell silent and many players dropped to their knees after watching a collision in left-center field between Cardinals outfielders Stephen Piscotty and Peter Bourjos, both of whom converged on Josh Harrison's fly ball to open the bottom half of the inning.
Bourjos made the catch, but in doing so knocked his knee into Piscotty's face. Piscotty fell limp to the ground and remained motionless for several seconds as Bourjos frantically waved for help. Blood trickled down Piscotty's face. He would eventually have to be carted off the field.
"We couldn't hear each other," Bourjos said afterward. "The ball was just hit between us, and we both tried to make a play on it. The situation in the game, I think we both thought if the ball fell it might be the outcome of the game.
"You could just tell that Stephen wasn't right and that he needed some help."
After the Cards' victory -- a win that moved them one win over the Pirates away from a division title -- players and staff were relieved to receive encouraging reports on the rookie outfielder. Scans taken of Piscotty's head, face and neck showed no fractures or serious damage. He was diagnosed with a head contusion and was to remain in the hospital overnight for observation.
Hours earlier, however, concern for Piscotty's well-being overshadowed all.
"That's up there with the scariest things I've ever witnessed," said Mark Reynolds, who watched the impact from the bench.
Matt Carpenter, who was at third base, stayed there throughout the approximate 16-minute delay because he didn't think he could emotionally handle what he might see or hear if he moved any closer.
"I thought he was paralyzed," Carpenter said. "I immediately thought he had broken his neck. I had 100 scenarios running through my head, and none of them were good. You instantly are thinking of all the worst possible scenarios of what could be going on out there. It's just a horrible, horrible moment."
The Pirates' dugout also went silent.
"You hate to see things like that," Harrison said. "You hope that he's OK and that it's nothing too serious."
Summoned by Bourjos, manager Mike Matheny and several members of the training staff hurried to deep left-center. The Pirates sent out their team physician, as well. Piscotty showed signs of consciousness when they arrived and then responded positively to the sensory tests that were administered to determine if there had been a neck or spinal cord injury.
"He could move the things he needed to move, so that was a relief," Matheny said. "But it was, without question, very scary."
All the while, players on the field dropped to their knees. Some said later that they began to pray. Jason Heyward ran over from right field to help console Bourjos, who was particularly shaken up.
"He was hurting physically and emotionally and mentally, as all of us were," Heyward said. "I told him, 'There's nothing you could have done about it.' I just wanted him to know that."
Bourjos had actually just entered the game minutes earlier when the Cardinals removed Matt Holliday, who is still easing into game play. It was at that point that Piscotty moved from right field to left. Heyward shifted from center to right.
After several minutes on the ground, Piscotty was placed on a stretcher and loaded onto a cart that took him to an ambulance for transport to nearby Allegheny General Hospital. Just before the cart rolled away, Matheny told Piscotty he would visit him after the game. Piscotty's response was one of confusion.
"What happened?" he said.
The Cardinals played the rest of the game without knowing the full extent of Piscotty's injuries. A more detailed update was provided to the club postgame. Many teammates plan to visit him in the hospital before Tuesday's game.
"When I didn't have to put thought into what our next move and what the next one and the next one was going to be, I was making sure I was doing a little praying," Matheny said. "I believe that's not a waste of time."