Anthony Rizzo won't back down from a conflict: ‘I'm gonna stand up for my teammates at all times'


Remember, the Cubs don't start it, but they do stop it.

So when Steven Souza had something to say to the Cubs, Anthony Rizzo was quick to defend his teammates.

Souza was beaned by Steve Cishek with 2 outs in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday night and thought the plunking may have been as a byproduct of his slide in the seventh inning that knocked Javy Baez out of the game.

Play was briefly halted as Souza and Rizzo got toe-to-toe in the ninth inning. Both bullpens readied themselves for a potential benches-clearing incident and coaches and umpires worked to restore order while Willson Contreras stalked down the first base line ready to jump into the fray at any moment.

But as quickly as it started, the conflict ended and play resumed without any major drama.

"I don't think we hit him on purpose there," Rizzo said. "But he thought we did and I just obviously defended us and defended Javy. He slid hard into Javy. We don't think it's a dirty at all — it's a hard slide.

"I'm gonna stand up for my teammates at all times. I don't think we really have the rep of drilling guys on purpose."

Souza and Cishek were teammates in Tampa Bay last season and the Cubs reliever entered the ninth inning with his team down 4-1. With two outs, it's hard to believe Cishek would hit Souza on purpose there and give the Diamondbacks another opening (they added an insurance run two batters later).

Souza tried to stretch his seventh-inning single into a double, but was gunned down at second base as Albert Almora Jr.'s throw from left-center pulled Baez up the line. The Cubs second baseman made a great catch and tag, but the play unfortunately carried him right into Souza's line and the Diamondbacks outfielder caught Baez on the knee as he slid past him.

Baez remained on the ground for a moment after the play, wincing in pain, and Souza went over to him to apologize. Baez came out of the game after the inning, as his knee started swelling up and a big bruise began to emerge.

"If you see the replay, it's not a dirty slide, but I did give him his lane," Baez said. "I didn't see where he was, but he does have room to slide.

"He's not breaking up a double play there. It's not a dirty slide, but he got me pretty good."

After the game, Joe Maddon was adamant Souza's slide was not dirty and just chalked the play up to an unfortunate circumstance as the throw took Baez in harm's way. 

Souza thought that was the end of it, but clearly took Cishek's drilling as an intentional maneuver on the Cubs' part. Which, admittedly, seems odd as the Cubs were already trailing by 3 runs and wouldn't want to add another baserunner with 2 outs in the ninth inning.

"It sucks that [the slide] happened," Souza said. "I know they're just trying to take care of their player. I know Steve Cishek is just taking care of their player. 

"I really hope that they know and the rest of the MLB knows that I'm not a dirty player. I would never try and hurt one single player in this league."

As for the bit of jawing with Rizzo, Souza said he told the Cubs first baseman, "If that was on purpose, then I was tired of it."

Baez hopes to be able to play Wednesday.

The Cubs and Diamondbacks have two more games left to play in this series at Wrigley Field and still have a three-game set Sept. 17-19 in Arizona.

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