PITTSBURGH -- Tensions between the Pirates and Cubs resurfaced in the third inning of Wednesday night's 2-1 Bucs win at PNC Park, and once again, there was a slide in the middle of it all.
This time, though, it was Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove going hard into Javier Baez at second base.
Musgrove slapped a ground-ball single to right field off Kyle Hendricks to lead off the third before Josh Harrison hit a grounder to third baseman Kristopher Bryant, who fired a throw to Baez at second base in hopes of beginning a double play. But Musgrove slid hard through the bag and into Baez, who didn't make a throw to first base.
"I was going in hard to break up a double play," Musgrove said. "You talk about an internal clock. [Baez] saw me coming. I was right in front of him. If he wanted to get out of the way, he should have. I wasn't trying to hurt him by any means, but I was trying to go in hard like their guy [Anthony Rizzo] did. [Baez] should've got out of the way, I guess."
Words were exchanged between Musgrove and Baez, drawing both teams from their respective dugouts and bullpens. Catcher Willson Contreras dashed into the middle of the scrum, and Hendricks appeared to play the role of peacemaker between Musgrove and Baez. The players quickly left the field, however, with nothing more than words flying from each side.
"He just went hard," Baez said. "I'm not saying it was a bad slide, but he just went hard. I asked him, 'What was that about?' He said, 'Sorry,' and the conversation was over. Everybody came out because they had to. Sometimes players are just talking. That was the situation there and it was over. They came out of the dugout. They have to go to second base to see what happened. It was over."
Musgrove walked back to the dugout to a round of cheers from the home crowd, and he was greeted with a handshake from catcher Elias Diaz. On Monday, Rizzo slid hard into Diaz to break up a double play at the plate, catching Diaz unprotected and leaving him with a sore right ankle.
"We're not trying to fight anybody here. We're not trying to cause any problems," Musgrove said. "But you blindside our catcher when he's got no chance to defend himself -- I thought he had cleared a lane. MLB decided that it was a bad slide. … That's something that I feel like is part of baseball. I don't think he was happy that I went after their guy or anything like that, but yeah, you try to pick up your teammates where you can. I didn't hurt him. I easily could have made a dirty slide, but I feel like I made a clean slide and went in hard."
Rizzo's slide was ruled legal on the field and upon further review, but MLB clarified on Tuesday, much to Cubs manager Joe Maddon's dismay, that Rizzo violated the slide rule. Naturally, Maddon anticipated that the league office would review Musgrove's slide and expected a response as the Cubs left Pittsburgh for New York.
The same rule came into question on Wednesday night. The umpires on the field determined that Baez did not attempt to turn a double play, and crew chief Gerry Davis initiated a rules review to verify that the slide was therefore non-reviewable.
"It was a review that turned out to be a non-review," Maddon said. "Apparently, it's a non-reviewable play based on Javy not attempting the throw. I'm not going to get into it. First of all, I have no problem with the slide, and second of all, it all creates the ambiguity of the definition, so I need more definition."
If Baez had attempted to turn the double play, as Diaz did on Monday, Musgrove might have been in violation of Rule 6.01(j). The third part of the rule states that a runner engages in a "bona fide slide" when he "is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide."
"It looked like he did," Maddon said. "I have no issue with the slide. The interpretation post was ambiguous, nebulous, ephemeral."
Musgrove defended his slide, saying he had no intent to harm Baez and popped off the bag only because he went in hard and had nowhere else to go. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle also took no issue with his starter's baserunning.
"It's a hard baseball slide," Hurdle said. "Lot of activity on the field -- no activity on the field, but a lot of people ran out. We just need to play ball. It's baseball, man. People want to win."