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Diaz exacts revenge with homer vs. Cubs

MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- Elias Diaz got his revenge against the Cubs at the plate, not behind it.

A day after a controversial slide by Anthony Rizzo, Diaz launched a leadoff homer on the first pitch he saw from Cubs left-hander Jon Lester to give the Pirates a three-run lead in the second inning of Tuesday night's 8-6 loss at PNC Park.

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PITTSBURGH -- Elias Diaz got his revenge against the Cubs at the plate, not behind it.

A day after a controversial slide by Anthony Rizzo, Diaz launched a leadoff homer on the first pitch he saw from Cubs left-hander Jon Lester to give the Pirates a three-run lead in the second inning of Tuesday night's 8-6 loss at PNC Park.

View Full Game Coverage

Rizzo's slide was the subject of much debate on Monday night and before Tuesday's game. Cubs manager Joe Maddon placed much of the blame on Diaz for his technique in throwing to first base, although Major League Baseball informed both clubs on Tuesday that Rizzo's slide was, in fact, illegal.

Diaz sustained a sore ankle but nothing more serious after Rizzo slid into his right leg, although he feared the worst immediately after the play took place. The Pirates did not retaliate on behalf of Diaz, though reliever Michael Feliz walked the Cubs' first baseman on an inside pitch in the eighth.

Diaz said he was not aware of Maddon's comments, nor was he additionally motivated by the opportunity to face the Cubs again on Tuesday.

Video: Diaz discusses Rizzo's controversial slide into home

"I came out today to play some baseball with no intent, like trying to make sure I got a home run. Obviously it came out, and I'm grateful it came out," Diaz said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. "I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy any home run. My goal today was to come out and just play good baseball."

Diaz, making his third straight start due to Francisco Cervelli's illness, held up his end of the bargain. He threw out Jason Heyward at second base in the second inning then smashed his third home run of the season a projected 420 feet to left off Lester, according to Statcast™.

Video: CHC@PIT: Bucs turn strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out DP

Diaz struggled offensively last season, posting a .579 OPS in 200 plate appearances, but he has bounced back this year. The 27-year-old is slashing .299/.356/.463 with nine RBIs, six walks and only eight strikeouts in 26 games.

"I genuinely believe that what's giving me the results is my desire to win, my desire to get better. I've always known that I belong here in the Major Leagues," said Diaz, who made his first Opening Day roster this year. "I always was confident that I could hit up here and play well up here. It's the constant work ethic. It's the constant training and that desire and that attitude to get better that has given me the results."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Elias Diaz