Anthony Rizzo's big day at the plate was only overshadowed by his play at the dish.
The Cubs first baseman got the scoring started on Memorial Day with a solo blast in the top of the second inning, one of three hits on the afternoon as he continues to sizzle in May.
But everybody will be talking about his slide at the plate in the eighth inning, in which he took out Pirates catcher Elias Diaz as he was trying to turn a double play.
Rizzo came barreling into home plate and as Diaz received the throw, he stepped off home plate, trying to fire to first to get Chris Gimenez on a double play. Rizzo slid into Diaz, leading the throw into right field and the Cubs were permitted a pair of runs:
In real time, it doesn't look that bad, but the replays and different angles are a little head-scratching:
This is where Rizzo made contact with Diaz on that slide. If you want to protect catchers, actually protect them. FFS pic.twitter.com/peKKCTW6tt— Chris Boulding (@CBoulding) May 28, 2018
I don't know about this slide by Anthony Rizzo. pic.twitter.com/oozPIy1j3V— Zachary D. Rymer (@zachrymer) May 28, 2018
The umpires huddled up and ruled the slide legal and both Cubs runs were able to stay on the board. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was furious and immediately tossed for arguing the call and subsequent replay.
In an interview with ESPN's Jesse Rogers on the ABC broadcast immediately after the game, Rizzo defended the slide.
"Just playing hard," Rizzo said. "Never want to try to hurt someone. They're playing as hard as they can over there, we're playing as hard as we can over here. You gotta break up a double play. Fortunately, we broke it up, everyone comes out healthy, but I thought it was a good play."
After the game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon passionately backed Rizzo (h/t Jesse Rogers, again):
"That's how you should teach your kids to slide and break up a double play — the catcher's gotta clear a path," Maddon said. "You have to teach proper technique. He's gotta get out farther, he's gotta keep his foot on the plate clear because that's absolutely what can happen. And you know why? Because it happened to me and the same thing happened — the ball went down the right field corner. My concern there was that they were going to attempt to review it in the same way you review it at second base, whereas there's no base sticking up that you can hold on to.
"This is tough on umpires. Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming the umpires at all. The umpires are awesome; they handled it perfectly. I'm the one that was being the jerk. But when that happens, if that play gets turned over, there's no base sticking up, they're saying something about diverting to hit the catcher purposely or cleats in the air. All kinds of innate stuff. You're teaching the fans the wrong things. You're worried about not getting people hurt but then Rizzo — in the eyes of the Pittsburgh fans — did something wrong or dirty and that is absolutely incorrect."
While the slide was legal — Rizzo could easily reach home plate — it's still a scary play, but one that's been around in baseball for years. Middle infielders have to deal with similar slides near second base all the time. Diaz was also healthy enough to remain in the game.
It's also fair that the Pirates and their fans (who booed Rizzo on his next trip to the plate) would be unhappy with the outcome on multiple levels. Cubs personnel and fans would undoubtedly have an issue if Willson Contreras was taken out in a similar fashion.
This isn't the first time these two teams have had a slide controversy on their hands. Remember, it was Chris Coghlan who slid into Jung Ho Kang at second base in September 2015, breaking Kang's leg.
It's also not the first time Rizzo has had an aggressive, controversial slide at home plate, with a similar issue coming last June that was ruled illegal:
Another angle here from the Padres broadcast. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/UtlQOCb9BO— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) June 20, 2017
On social media, many Cubs fans rushed to Rizzo's defense while others acknowledged they felt weird about the slide even though they support Rizzo:
Totally a clean play.— Tobi Hope (@tobihope) May 28, 2018
The Cubs went on to win the game 7-0 and Rizzo had 3 RBI in the contest.