The Chicago Cubs put a hurting on the baseball during Monday’s 7-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. During Tuesday’s game, however, they might be the ones hurting.
In the eighth inning of Monday’s game, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo took out Pirates catcher Elias Diaz with a slide. Diaz airmailed his throw due to the contact, allowing two more runs to score. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was ejected from the game after the umps allowed the play to stand.
With the bases loaded in the eighth inning and no outs, Cubs catcher Chris Gimenez hit a ground ball to the shortstop. With the Cubs only up by three runs, Pirates shortstop Sean Rodriguez tried to get the out at home. In real-time, it looked close. The ball beat Rizzo home, but he slid to try and prevent Diaz from turning the double-play. He succeeded. Diaz’s throw sailed into the outfield as he went to the ground. Two runs came in, pushing the Cubs’ lead to 5-0.
Was it a legal play?
While the umps said yes, the league said no. On Tuesday, both the Cubs and Pirates were informed that Rizzo should have been called for interference on the slide.
Both the #Cubs and Pirates have been told by league that Rizzo should've been called for interference on his slide at home. That differs from the umpire's call on the field as well as the video review
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 29, 2018
Was it a dirty play?
In real-time, it looked pretty close. But replays don’t help Rizzo’s case.
As replays showed, Diaz had enough time to pick up the force out, and then get away from the plate. Both his legs had cleared the batter’s box by the time Rizzo slid into him.
Calling a play “dirty” is an accusation that carries a lot of weight in baseball. We won’t go that far. But based on that picture, sliding into Diaz could have been avoided.
What was the response?
The Pirates challenged that Rizzo went out of his way to take out Diaz. After they lost the challenge, Hurdle was ejected from the game.
Following the contest, Joe Maddon was also furious about the implication that Rizzo’s slide was dirty.
Maddon hot about even the perception that Rizzo’s slide was dirty. Referenced fans being taught the wrong thing. Will post some vid of him
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) May 28, 2018
Should changes be made to the rule?
The umpires ruling that play as a legal slide should draw plenty of questions from fans. The league implemented new catcher rules a few years ago to help prevent collisions at the plate. A key part of the phrasing in that rule was the word “avoidable.”
Since this has come up in replies — Rizzo did not violate rule 6.01(j). He violated 6.01(i). If this doesn't count as deviating from the direct pathway to initiate contact with the catcher, then it is fundamentally impossible to ever violate (i). pic.twitter.com/VzmsEdfBnu
— Nathan Bernhardt (@jonbernhardt) May 28, 2018
Rizzo had a direct pathway to the plate, but deviated from his from it to make contact with the catcher. That seems to be a violation of the rule, but it wasn’t called.
We’re not specifically calling out Rizzo in this instance, but more pointing out that the enforcement of the rule seems arbitrary. Rizzo’s slide is a blatant violation according to the rulebook, but we have no idea how many umps would actually make the call. That’s probably a sign that the league should address the issue in the future.
What will happen next?
The Pirates and Cubs are all set to play again Tuesday, and we imagine it’s possible at least one person gets hit. Rizzo actually did come up again in the ninth inning, but hitting him would have loaded the bases. The Pirates pitched to him as normal.
It’s possible cooler heads will prevail here given that outcome, but baseball teams rarely have a short memory when it comes to holding grudges.
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Chris Cwik is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik
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