Before the game gets underway, I wanted to mention the dust-up from last night’s game in case a Cubs player winds up wearing one in a suspicious manner today.
Basically, Steven Souza Jr. slide hard into Javy Baez at second base, with his cleat going into Baez’s knee. Eventually, Baez had to leave the game, and isn’t playing today. It didn’t look like an unreasonable slide, even if Souza probably could have avoided Baez. It happened quickly, with two players moving and a throw coming in. Baez went down to his knee as Souza started his slide at the bag. Live, it looked kinda ugly, but the replays make me think it was just an unfortunate accident, without ill-intent and without negligence.
Generally, it was a non-factor in the game narrative until Souza took a fastball off the thigh from Steve Cishek in the 9th inning. It was immediately clear that Souza thought it was intentional retaliation for his slide, and Anthony Rizzo was having none of that:
As Rizzo explained after the game (Cubs.com): “I don’t think we hit him on purpose there. [Souza] just thought we did. … He slid hard into Javy. We don’t think it’s dirty at all. It’s a hard slide, but obviously, I’m going to stick up for my teammates at all times. I don’t think we really have the rep of drilling guys on purpose.”
Souza, perhaps, is coming at this from a different mentality, where if that happens involving the Diamondbacks, *OF COURSE* it was intentional. But the Cubs don’t really operate that way, and they’ve taken their share of purposes pitches over the past few years without retaliating.
He continued in his belief after the game:
— Richard Morin (@BigRickMorin) July 25, 2018
Even Cishek, a friend of Souza’s, said it wasn’t intentional:
S.Cishek hit his good friend S. Souza in the 9th: "There's a lot of irony going on. I actually had breakfast with Souza this morning. Sinker in, tried to back him off the plate. Something we talked about over breakfast. I smoked him in the leg. I owe him a call….and breakfast."
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 25, 2018
We’ll never know for certain, but the thing is, if you’ve watched Cishek at all this year, then you know he loses his fastball waaaay off to the arm side like that all the time. It’s just the nature of his delivery and pitch movement that sometimes he loses one like that. It just didn’t look suspicious to me at all (to say nothing of that fact that it was still a winnable game that got slightly more out of hand because of that HBP).
Now we see if Rizzo or someone else gets plunked by a Diamondbacks pitcher to send back a message that probably was never sent in the first place.