Washington Nationals And St. Louis Cardinals Renew "Rivalry" Tonight.

• A Refresher Course On The "Rivalry" Between The Cards and Nats: (ed. note - "Some of the following is reprinted from previous posts for the sake of anyone who wasn't following Spring Training too closely. Sorry for the repetition for those who were.")

Top of the fifth inning, March 21, 2011. Grapefruit League action. Roger Dean Stadium. Speedy Nats' outfielder Nyjer Morgan collides with Cards' first baseman Albert Pujols on a play at first when Pujols reaches into the basepath for a bad throw to first from St. Louis' catcher Gerard Laird. The face of the Cards' franchise is attended to by St. Louis' trainer on the field, and a live report from the game by Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) on Twitter says Cards' Skipper Tony LaRussa is seen glaring dugout to dugout at the Nationals and Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman.

One out later, with two down in the Nats' fifth, Laynce Nix steps to the plate against Cardinals' Chris Carpenter and Nix gets drilled with the first pitch of the at bat. The Nationals fail to take advantage of the HBP and back-to-back two-out walks and one out into the Cards' fifth, Nats' starter Livan Hernandez pays the Cards back, drilling Colby Rasmus. Problem solved, and as Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman told reporters following the first of two HBP's against Nyjer Morgan in a game with the Marlins the previous summer (as recorded in MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article entitled, "Nationals lose game, tempers in Miami"), "They told me, 'Naw, it's over,'" Riggleman said in the quiet of his clubhouse office. 'Well, when they throw at him a second time, then it's not over.'"

Top of the seventh. Still 4-2. One out in, 2010 Nats' reliever Miguel Batista, now with the Cards, hits Ian Desmond. Desmond wants to know why? And he turns to the Cards' dugout for answers. Both benches clear to discuss it. No punches are thrown. Desmond jaws at the Cards' Manager and Nationals' Manager Jim Riggleman lets LaRussa know the Cards went one HBP too far. Miss Io...Miguel Batista's ejected. Desmond scores on an RBI single by Nats' first baseman Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa drives two runs to put the Nationals ahead 7-2. After the game, Livan Hernandez, somewhat surprisingly tells reporters that he absolutely hit Rasmus on purpose. Ian Desmond dismisses Batista's HPB by saying he throws like Miss Iowa and a Nats/Cards rivalry stretching back to 2009 is renewed.

It's not just that the Cards were upset with Nyjer Morgan running into the face of their franchise, Albert Pujols. Did the Cards remember what MLB officially declared to be an "unnecessary" run that the former Nats' center fielder took at Cards' catcher Bryan Anderson last August which resulted in a separated shoulder for the then-23-year-old backstop? No one was making any connection between the two events involving the oft-criticized Nats' outfielder and several writers warned against making any such connection since Morgan was clearly wrong colliding with the Cardinals' catcher and blameless in the run-in with Pujols. The night after he ran Anderson, Morgan was held out of the lineup because Riggleman believed if he put him in the lineup he'd get hit. Riggleman and LaRussa know each other well from the time the two spent together in St. Louis. 

Asked about the confrontation between the teams this Spring during an interview on MLB Network Radio several days later, Riggleman dismissed the idea of any bad blood existing between the two teams.

"Tony and I go back a long way," Riggleman said, "I met Tony in '77 and we played together. We're great friends. These things happen in baseball. Emotions were flying. So much of what happens in any of these situations is because somebody misconstrued what happened. We felt very strongly that Carpenter hit Nix because Nyjer had had a collision with Pujols. They felt Nyjer's collision with Pujos was dirty play and we didn't see it that way. So when Nix got hit by Carpenter, we felt that that was a retaliation for the play at first base. It turns out they misconstrued what happened and we misconstrued because Nyjer did not do anything intentional and Carpenter as it turns out did not throw at Nix, so everybody was wrong."

But that, of course wasn't the first time the Cards and Nats had an onfield disagreement. Drew Storen and Matt Holliday had a little history stretching back to the previous season when the Nats' rookie closer hit the Cards' outfielder on the hand to force in a run in a bases loaded jam two nights before Morgan ran into Anderson (the Cards' catcher) and then the next night in the finale of the four-game series, Storen threw a fastball behind Holliday, drawing LaRussa out of the dugout to argue for the Nats' rookie reliever's ejection. After that game, the Cards' skipper let the Nats know, in an article by MLB.com's Matthew Leach entitled, "Holliday, La Russa take exception to pitch", that the Cards didn't think what happened was acceptable: 

"...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."

"'It's the Major Leagues,'" LaRussa said, addressing the idea that Storen had just lost control of the pitch that went behind the Cardinals' outfielder. "'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.'" As that series ended I notedthe Cards, "[have] 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."

When they got together this Spring, there were once again issues. Will they resurface tonight? Probably not. Morgan's gone. Drew Storen's control (if there ever was an issue) has been spot-on in his last few starts. Chances are nothing will happen. The Nationals have a three-game winning streak on the line. Another win is much more important than revisiting any past disagreements, but it will be interesting to see what happens the first time a pitcher from either team loses one...

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