A day after Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman was forced to apologize for the actions of the team's center fielder, Nyjer Morgan, who took an unnecessary shot at Cards' catcher Bryan Anderson in a play at the plate on a base-clearing hit by Willie Harris on Saturday, the Nats once again raised the ire of St. Louis' Skipper Tony La Russa when D.C. closer Drew Storen nearly hit Cardinals' outfielder Matt Holliday for the second time in the four-game series. Thursday night, Storen hit Holliday on the hand/wrist with a 96mph sinking fastball as he blew a save and surrendered four runs to the Cards in the top of the ninth. Sunday it was a fastball that ended up behind the St. Louis' left fielder, leading Holliday to take a few steps toward the mound before Nats' catcher Wil Nieves blocked his path.
Tony La Russa emerged from the dugout and a lengthy argument with the umps ensued, leading to eventual warnings for both teams. Both team's managers met with the umpires before Sunday's game and were told that no retaliation for Morgan's actions would be tolerated, but as far as La Russa saw it, as quoted in MLB.com's Matthew Leach's article entitled, "Holliday, La Russa take exception to pitch":
"...here's a guy that hits a single and a double and they throw the ball behind him. There was going to be no ifs, ands or buts. But in their opinion, the pitch got away. ... If somebody throws the ball behind you, you're not happy. Especially up in that area. If you don't have that kind of command, it wasn't intentional, then you don't belong in this league."
La Russa's outfielder echoed those sentiments, telling the MLB.com reporter, "It's the Major Leagues. It's [94 miles per hour] and it hits a wall behind you, that doesn't have anything to do with what happened before that." Storen, who hit former Cards' outfielder Ryan Ludwick in his MLB debut against St. Louis in May in addition to hitting Holliday this past Thursday assured the press he had not done so intentionally:
"'I was not trying to hit Holliday,' the rookie reliever said. 'Apparently, that's why La Russa came out there. That was not the case.'"
Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman addressed the situation in the team's post game press conference:
Jim Riggleman: "Before the ballgame, [Umpire] Joe West called myself and Tony [La Russa] down to the umpire's office to talk about the end of the game yesterday and wanted to make sure if warnings needed to be given to either club, [they're] going to be watching close for anything, and all that kind of stuff. And so, when that ball went behind Holliday, Tony felt, I guess, I shouldn't speak for Tony, but it appeared that he felt that there was some intent there. That, if you're looking for that before the game there it is. But clearly there was no intent, it was a terrible pitch, we're winning the game 4-1, and certainly we don't want to be hitting anybody, get anybody on base, get a rally started, but after what happened last night, you see where it's coming from."
Q: Was it an attempt by La Russa to rile up, or throw Storen off his game?
Jim Riggleman: "I don't know if it's 'rile up', but I know it got to the point that I didn't like him standing on the mound as long as he was and I felt like, pretty soon here we've got to invoke the rule where if it doesn't get going pretty quick here you can just say, 'OK, you've got 20 seconds and if he's not in the box it's a strike.' Because you don't want your guy standing out there that long, he had already pitched a third and come in and sat down and now gone back out."
Storen told MASN's Debbi Taylor in a post game interview that he wasn't fazed by the warnings or accusations. "I mean, after I hit him the other day, obviously both were unintentional, I have great respect for Matt, so I would never do that, but it's just part of the game." After inducing a grounder from Holliday for the first out of the ninth, Storen surrendered a solo HR in the next at bat to Pedro Feliz to bring the Cards within two in a game that would end 4-2 with the Nats taking three of four from St. Louis, leaving the Cardinals 5.0 games behind the NL Central leading Reds from Cincinnati. The Cards had every right to be frustrated. After Morgan's actions and the accusations they had about Storen's it's probably a good thing the Nats and Cards don't play again this season. It'll be interesting to see if La Russa stores this one away for 2011...