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Watch: Cubs star Rizzo's dirty slide enrages Pirates, allows 2 runs to score

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Dirty slide or good baseball play?

In the top of the eighth inning of Monday’s game between the Cubs and Pirates, Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo slid hard into Pirates catcher Elias Diaz at home plate on a grounder to short by Chris Gimenez. With one out, the Pirates were looking to turn two — at home and at first — and get out of the inning.

Rizzo was out by a mile at home, but he slid hard, and some say went out of his way, to break up the double play. He caught Diaz below the knee and caused him to fire the ball over the first baseman’s head.

Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber scored on the overthrow to make it 5-0 in favor of the Cubs, who ended up winning 7-0.

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What made it appear worse was that Diaz was writhing on the ground in pain as it appeared he suffered an injury on the play. Thankfully, he was OK and continued playing.

The play, however, did spark a debate on whether or not Rizzo’s slide was dirty.

Per baseball’s official rulebook, “A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball).’’

Do you think Rizzo's slide was unnecessary?

While it could be argued that Rizzo deviated from his direct path to break up the double play, home plate umpire Bill Welke said the slide was legal because Rizzo could touch the plate.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle didn’t come out and call the slide illegal, but he did question the rule.

“(Diaz) makes the play just like he’s supposed to make and he gets wiped out with a hard baseball slide,” Hurdle said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “There’s potential injury and I don’t see the rule fitting the means there. If it’s open season, it’s open season. Everybody is going to see the play and knows this is a play you can make on every catcher in his most vulnerable position.”

However, Cubs manager Joe Maddon saw it differently.

“There are different plays where the players have done nothing wrong, but because of new rules it makes him wear the black cap for a moment,” Maddon said, per the Chicago Tribune. “That’s how you should teach your kids to slide to break up a double play at home plate.”

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“The catcher has to clear the path. You have to teach proper technique. He has to get out farther. He has to keep his foot clear (of the plate) because that’s what absolutely can happen. Why? Because the same thing happened to me (in the minors), and the ball went down the right-field corner,” Maddon added.

Rizzo, for his part, checked on Diaz to see if he was OK and said he wasn’t trying to hurt the Pirates catcher.

“I appreciate a few of their guys saying to me, ‘That’s a clean play. It didn’t look like you were trying to hit (Diaz),’” Rizzo said.

Diaz, however, was not happy with the slide.

“When I saw the replay, I was like, ‘Man, this guy could have ended my career right here,’” he said. “And I understand they called it a legal slide, but out of what I’ve been trained and what I’ve been told, that was not a legal slide.”

Still, Diaz said Rizzo apologized, which he seemed to appreciate. “He said it was a difficult play, and he apologized, and I waved him off and said let’s just play ball,” Diaz said.

Pirates shortstop Sean Rodriguez admitted that whether or not the slide was dirty is “open for interpretation,” though he thought it did cross a line.

“Coming from somebody who obviously plays the game on that edge, on that fine line, it’s obviously open to interpretation,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone is going to have their own opinion on it.”

“Did he go out of his way to go hit him? That’s what it looked like on the replay.”

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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