CHICAGO — Anthony Rizzo thrived in the leadoff spot again for the Chicago Cubs. However, it was his collision with San Diego catcher Austin Hedges on a play at home that had the Padres fuming.
With the Cubs trailing 2-1 in the sixth, Rizzo led off with a triple. One out later, Kris Bryant hit a liner to shallow center that Matt Szczur made a running catch on and fired home to get Rizzo for the inning-ending double play — the fourth San Diego double play to that point behind starter Clayton Richard.
Hedges got the ball early and moved to apply the tag. Rizzo didn’t slide and sort of dropped down to his knee as he crashed into the catcher, who tumbled backward. Hedges had to leave the game with a bruised right thigh.
“I think you look at that play and it’s a fairly egregious violation of the rule,” San Diego manager Andy Green said. “The rule exists to protect the catcher. The safety of the catcher is more in jeopardy now when you have the rule to protect you because you’re not expecting to get hit when you give a guy a plate like that.
“That’s a cheap shot. I’m not saying he’s a dirty player at all — nobody is saying that — but he clearly deviated from his path to hit our catcher, took our catcher out. Rule exists to protect him. It’s a disheartening play to see come about like that.”
No one on the Cubs’ side saw it that way.
“It’s one of those plays where it’s very sensitive,” Rizzo said. “It’s a play where I’m out by two steps. If I slide, he runs into me.
“I’ve talked to a lot of umpires about this rule. It’s my understanding if they have the ball, it’s game on.”
Chicago manager Joe Maddon agreed with his star player.
“You don’t see it anymore because the runner thinks he has to avoid (the catcher) — he doesn’t,” Maddon said. “If the guy’s in the way, you’re still able to hit him.
“I’d much prefer what Riz did tonight. What he did was right, absolutely right. There’s nothing wrong with that and nobody can tell me differently.”
Rizzo extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games by going 2 for 3 with an RBI.