Pirates, Cubs downplay benches-clearing incident: 'We're not trying to fight'
Tensions between the Pirates and Chicago Cubs finally manifested themselves on the field Wednesday when the dugouts and bullpens emptied during the third inning.
It started when pitcher Joe Musgrove was retired at second base on a force play after a ground ball by Josh Harrison. Musgrove slid hard into second baseman Javier Baez, who said something to Musgrove after he got up and while he was beginning his jog back to the dugout.
Musgrove turned around and walked toward Baez, triggering players on both teams running out onto the field. Harrison was vocal; Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks and Pirates third-base coach Joey Cora stood between Musgrove and Baez.
"I'm not saying it was a bad slide," Baez said, "but he just went hard and I asked him, 'What was that about?' And he said, 'What?' I said, 'What was that about?' He said sorry, or whatever. I don't even know what he said. He said stuff to me."
Cooler heads prevailed, and the teams returned to their dugouts and bullpens. Umpires invoked a video review of the slide for a short period of time before determining it was not a reviewable play.
In the series opener Monday, Pirates catcher Elias Diaz writhed in pain for several moments after the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo slid into home plate and clipped his ankle. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle challenged the play as a violation of the slide rule (two Cubs runs scored after Diaz's errant relay throw went into right field). The play stood , but the following day MLB told the teams that was a mistake and Rizzo's slide should have been deemed illegal .
In the ensuing 48 hours, many Pirates fans were upset the team did not retaliate on Rizzo . Fans at PNC Park cheered and applauded during the near-altercation Wednesday.
"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 (Diaz) had cleared a lane. MLB decided that it was a bad slide. I slid directly into the bag. Yeah I popped up little bit, but I went in hard. I had nowhere else to go but up. I could have wiped him out and really hurt him. but I didn't. I was just trying to go in hard — like they did — and break up the double play. So it's just something that I easily could have made a dirty slide, but I feel like I made a clean slide and just came in hard."
Of the Rizzo slide into Diaz, Cubs manager Joe Maddon blamed Diaz for, among other things, not moving quickly enough and not having an internal clock.
That didn't seem to have been lost on Musgrove.
"You talk about an internal clock. (Baez) saw me coming," Musgrove said. "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. I was just going hard, like their guy did. So he should have got out of the way, I guess."
Players and managers on both sides said the on-field talking was at a minimum and that the physical contact was virtually nonexistent. They came out onto the field, many said, because they had to in a show of support for teammates.
"Loved it, thought it was rather humorous," Maddon said. "Because there was nothing going on. Absolutely a nondescript nothing."
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.