Cubs

No MLB discipline — or retaliation from Padres — as Anthony Rizzo stays hot in Cubs leadoff spot

No MLB discipline — or retaliation from Padres — as Anthony Rizzo stays hot in Cubs leadoff spot

Major League Baseball won’t discipline Anthony Rizzo for knocking San Diego Padres catcher Austin Hedges out of Monday night’s game, even though chief baseball officer Joe Torre found that the Cubs superstar violated the collision rule.

That interpretation of intent will hang over the next two games at Wrigley Field, waiting to see if the Padres retaliate for what manager Andy Green called a “cheap shot” against one of their building-block players.

“I can’t control what they do,” Rizzo said Tuesday afternoon, pointing out the way the Padres attacked him last month. “They throw inside, most likely, on the second pitch. If you look at the games back in San Diego, every second pitch last time was at me. It’s just part of the game.

“Just be ready to hit. If I get hit, I get hit. It’s certainly not the first time.”

Rizzo blasted Jhoulys Chacin’s second 93-mph fastball 432 feet over the center-field wall, setting the first-inning tone in a 4-0 win and giving him his third leadoff homer within the last seven games. The San Diego Union Tribune quoted Chacin postgame: “I had a meeting with Andy, and he asked me to give my word I won’t hit (Rizzo) on purpose.”

Rizzo — a left-handed slugger who crowds the plate — is already tied for the major-league lead after getting hit by 12 pitches so far this season. While the Hedges crash went viral, Rizzo explained his side of the story to Torre, the Hall of Famer who caught more than 7,400 innings in the majors and now oversees umpiring and on-field operations and discipline.

“We were pretty much on the same page, as far as it’s an instinct play,” Rizzo said. “There was no intent to be malicious towards Austin Hedges. It wasn’t a statement. It’s just one of those plays where my instincts took over.”

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Rizzo again stood at his locker, faced the cameras and tried to shrug off the entire incident, from Green making it a much bigger story with his postgame comments to the media — “it’s a manager backing his player” — to Hedges dealing with a bruised right thigh and being kept out of Tuesday’s lineup.

“Yeah, if I see him,” Rizzo said when asked if he’ll be in contact with Hedges. “From what I understand, he’s all right. He’s just banged up a little bit.

“It’s just one of those weird plays. I’m ready to move on.”

Rizzo’s defense amounted to the series of split-second decisions made while reading Kris Bryant’s low line drive, tagging up from third base, accounting for Matt Szczur’s bouncing throw from center field and trying to find an angle to home plate against Hedges.

“I don’t expect retaliation,” manager Joe Maddon said. “There was no intent on our part to injure anybody. That was an intent to score a run. And at the end of the night, you try to score one more than they do. That’s all that was going on.

“That was a good baseball play. Period.”

Even a Cubs official admitted that Rizzo ran outside the base path, but not in such an egregious way that he should become a new precedent for a gray-area rule. Even the Padres acknowledged that Rizzo doesn’t have the reputation of being a dirty player.

“You got to play this game on instinct,” Rizzo said. “I play this game on instincts all the time. They take over and most of the time you have to live and die by your decision.”

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

There are 162 baseball games in a season and some days, you’re just not going to have it. On Sunday afternoon, in a 10-2 loss to the Reds, the Cubs just didn’t have it. 

“It’s already in the trash can...” Maddon said. “... so let’s flush it out and move on.” 

Things were bleak from the very first at-bat of the game, when Kyle Schwarber took a 3-2 fastball looking for one of his three strikeouts on the day. Anthony Rizzo was the only starter not to strike out at least once, as the Cubs’ finished with 11. Reds starter Tanner Roark was responsible for 9 of them, his season-high. 

Things weren’t much better on the basepaths or in the field. Besides making two errors, Anthony Rizzo was thrown out at the plate in the 2nd inning and David Bote got doubled-up at first after drawing a walk in the 6th. The Cubs were playing playing their 13th game in 13 days, and it showed.

“I feel really good about how we’ve been playing until today,” Maddon said. “This whole month we’ve been in almost every game except for this one, and maybe the [7-0 loss on May 10th] against Milwaukee. There’s not a whole lot to be upset about, and I’m not. I just want to make sure everyone’s well moving forward.” 

There was a scary moment in the 6th inning, as Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward collided in the right field gap while trying to make a play on a fly ball from Eugenio Suarez. Bryant was slow to get up and eventually had to leave the game. He’s still being evaluated for a head/neck injury, and the Cubs don’t yet know if he’ll go into concussion protocol. For what it's worth, Bryant was cleared to fly with the team. 

“He’s doing okay,” he said. “He’s still under evaluation. We don’t know exactly what we’re doing with this whole thing yet, but we’re trying to talk with the doctors and find out exactly where we’re at.”

“We collided, and I called for the ball,” Heyward added. “We were both going hard to make a play and ran into each other.”

The loss dropped starter Jose Quintana to 4-4 on the season. Quintana went 5.1 innings while allowing six runs on 12 hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Despite relatively weak contact, the Reds hit well all weekend. Their 42 hits over three games was the most for them in a three-game series at Wrigley since 1976, and they finished the weekend with a .404 BABIP. 

“Yeah, I just had to keep pitching, you know?” Quintana said. “Keeping my focus. It was really tough - too many base hits. In some contests that happens. I just try to stay close in the game.” 

The Cubs finished their 7-game homestand at 3-4, and now hit the road for a two-city trip. Up first comes the 35-19 Astros, who are 20-7 at home. This season Houston ranks first in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and third in home runs. Their closer, Ryan Pressley, has the lowest ERA of all qualified relievers and is fresh off a streak of 40 straight scoreless appearances.

“I’m excited,” Joe Maddon said before Sunday’s game. “Let’s get by today, but I’m excited for the whole week. Look at our schedule - it’s been pretty firm, and it continues to be pretty firm. And that’s the way it should be. I’m looking forward to it.” 

Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game after outfield collision with Jason Heyward

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Scott Chagnon/NBC Sports Chicago

Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game after outfield collision with Jason Heyward

Add injury to insult for the Cubs. 

In the top of the 6th inning, with the Cubs already down 6 runs, right fielder Kris Bryant left the game after colliding with Jason Heyward in the outfield.

You can check out the video right here. 

It's possible that the move was simply precautionary. The Cubs are on their 13th game in 13 days, and being down six runs in the latter half of a getaway game isn't the time to roll the dice. That said, Bryant missing time would be a significant blow, as the Cubs' star is in the midst of a stellar season. Through 49 games, Bryant's slashing .288/.411/.576 with a .987 and a 160 wRC+. As of Sunday afternoon, only Javy Baez has a higher WAR (2.5) than Bryant (2.4). 

There's been no further announcement on the extent of Bryant's injury.