WASHINGTON -- Tensions between the Nationals and Cardinals resumed on Sunday in Washington's 4-2 win, even though they never quite boiled over.
Cards outfielder Matt Holliday and manager Tony La Russa took exception to a ninth-inning Drew Storen fastball that sailed behind Holliday, with La Russa complaining to the umpiring crew at length after the pitch. That followed an incident on Saturday night in which Washington outfielder Nyjer Morgan shoved catcher Bryan Anderson on a play where Anderson was looking the other way and did not have the ball.
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, an old friend of La Russa's, apologized on behalf of his club for Morgan's play, and it appeared matters were settled. But when Holliday was thrown behind in the ninth, it raised suspicions and hackles in the visiting dugout.
"We were told before the game that [there would be] no funny business because of the cheap shot that Morgan hit," La Russa said. "And 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."
Storen said afterward that he was not trying to send a message.
"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."
Storen hit Holliday with a pitch in Thursday's series opener, but Holliday said that had nothing to do with his annoyance.
"When a guy throws a ball three feet behind you, it doesn't matter what happened before," he said. "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."
Rasmus will return to Cards' lineup Monday
WASHINGTON -- Colby Rasmus will have to wait one more day than expected to make his return to the Cardinals' starting lineup.
Originally listed as St. Louis' center fielder, Rasmus was a last-minute scratch in Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Nationals. The decision was not announced in the press box until the Nationals were taking the field to begin the afternoon game. The official reason for the change was listed as "manager's decision," and both Rasmus and manager Tony La Russa said that Rasmus did not have a setback in his recuperation from a right calf injury. The decision was not announced in the press box until the Nationals were taking the field to begin the afternoon game. The official reason for the change was listed as "manager's decision," and both Rasmus and manager Tony La Russa said that Rasmus did not have a setback in his recuperation from a right calf injury.
"I've done it for years," La Russa said. "When a guy's ready, you give him one more day just to have that peace of mind. We felt like a day game would be a push. You start sweating, dehydrating. He'll be in there tomorrow."
The late switch was odd, especially from La Russa, who typically would rather post a lineup late than have to make a change to an already-posted card. Both player and manager painted it as a matter of caution and nothing more.
"They're just giving me another day," Rasmus said. "Talked about it and that's what we came up with. I'm good."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on its website, however, that the move was based at least in part on the potential for an ill fit between Rasmus and home-plate umpire Rob Drake. The move was made after La Russa and Washington manager Jim Riggleman conferred with the umpiring crew regarding an incident between the two clubs the night before, though there was no indication that any issue between player and umpire was discussed in that meeting.
As for upcoming games, La Russa said Sunday that Rasmus' approach at the plate will determine how frequently the second-year player is in the lineup over the season's final five weeks.
A Cardinals team in need of a boost could certainly use Rasmus' combination of power and on-base ability in the lineup every day or close to it. However, La Russa still feels that there is too much inconsistency in Rasmus' at-bats. The more the second-year center fielder erases that tendency, the more he'll play.
"He's had all the work," La Russa said. "He's never backed off the work, taking batting practice. I think it all has to do with what his concentration is, and what his focus is. I do believe that -- you just watch his swings in batting practice and in the game -- I think he is convinced that he helps us more if he just yanks the ball out of the park. That normally is not the case, because you're limiting yourself to a side of the park and you're vulnerable to too many pitches. We really push, 'Just play the game.' That's what Jon [Jay] does. He plays the game. take a single, take a walk, let the home runs come."
Rasmus, who struck out as a pinch-hitter to end Sunday's game, is batting .268 with a .352 on-base percentage and a .501 slugging percentage. He's slumped since the All-Star break, but it's no secret that he can be prone to both slumps and extreme hot streaks.
No guaranteed rotation spot for Lohse
WASHINGTON -- Kyle Lohse suspected it on Saturday night, and manager Tony La Russa confirmed it on Sunday afternoon: Lohse's spot in the Cardinals' rotation is not guaranteed over the season's final five weeks.
Lohse struggled in his third start back after undergoing forearm surgery, and has turned in one good start in those three games. With Jeff Suppan returning from the disabled list Wednesday, the team has an alternative to Lohse. And as a tight National League Central race draws to a close, the Redbirds don't have the luxury of patience with a rehabbing pitcher. Lohse certainly isn't out yet. But he also isn't totally in, either.
"We're in a competitive situation," La Russa said Sunday. "We're running out of games every time we take the field from here to the end. There's a decision there. The decision goes, who gives you the best chance to win? Is it Supp? Is it Lohse? I don't think it's [Blake] Hawksworth. Is there anybody in the Minor Leagues? So it comes down to Supp and Lohse."
Lohse doesn't currently have a next scheduled start. He won't pitch until at least the Cardinals' next road trip, which begins Sept. 6 in Milwaukee. Jake Westbrook would likely take the first game of that trip, leaving an opening on Tuesday, Sept. 7. Suppan pitches Wednesday in Houston, and could be on turn to take that game. It could also go to Lohse.
"Starting Friday, every five days, somebody's got to pitch in the spot," La Russa said. "We'll make a determination. Supp gets a chance on Wednesday. But I'm excited and I think we're excited that Kyle is healthy. Can he improve his execution to finish a hitter off and finish an inning off? That's the question."
The bulk of Lohse's troubles Saturday came with two outs, something La Russa attributed to the right-hander "over-trying." It's also distinctly possible that it's a matter of still-returning command after surgery. Either way, Lohse knows there's not really a lot of room for patience.
"I'm not going to use it as an excuse, but I've basically been out the last two years and haven't had my stuff until now," Lohse said. "So maybe it's a comfortable-being-out-there issue. I was pounding the strike zone, but just not the good quality strikes. Everything is so close. ... It's so close but not good enough."
Cards accept apology from Riggleman
WASHINGTON -- Nationals manger Jim Riggleman apologized to Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and catcher Bryan Anderson after Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan collided with Anderson during the eighth inning of Washington's 14-5 victory on Saturday.
Anderson, who had his back toward Morgan, didn't have the ball.
The Nationals put the game out of reach during a six-run inning off former Washington closer Mike MacDougal, with Willie Harris' two-run double and Roger Bernadina's two-run homer highlighting the output.
Harris' hit should have been a bases-clearing knock, but third-base umpire Angel Hernandez called Morgan out, because a live baserunner cannot be touched or aided by a teammate or coach. Ivan Rodriguez pushed Morgan back to home plate when Morgan missed the plate while trying to knock Anderson down.
The replay showed there wasn't a need for Morgan to touch Anderson, because the ball wasn't close to the plate.
"It was totally inexcusable," Riggleman said. "It was a mistake. I can't minimize it. If I take the approach that there is nothing wrong it, then we are going to get people hurt on the field. It has never happened before and it will not happen again."
Riggleman believed Morgan wasn't thinking because he was angry that he was hitting eighth in the lineup. Morgan, who was out of the lineup Sunday, usually leads off.
"He was upset about some things and did an unprofessional thing -- he went after the catcher," Riggleman said. "I certainly don't condone that. We have all made mistakes. I don't think that is Nyjer's style of play to do something like that. Maybe he thought I was there with that equipment at the plate. I think [hitting eighth] had a lot to do with it."
Said La Russa, "[Morgan] had a brain cramp. I appreciate the way they handled it. They handled it internally, and they made it clear to us that it was a mistake. The Nats did what they had to do to defuse it. Guys make mistakes. I made it a point not to say anything after the game. I didn't say a word."
Morgan, who said he thought there was going to be a play at the plate, admitted that he was fooled by Albert Pujols' arm fake toward home plate.
"I got fooled by the arm fake and then I saw the catcher get ready to load up," Morgan said. "It looked like he was getting ready to start defending himself. If there is a next time, I guess I will slide. I don't want it to look like I'm trying to hurt somebody."
Cards' Reyes not back at full strength yet
WASHINGTON -- The Cardinals' optimism regarding left-handed reliever Dennys Reyes' quick return has waned.
Reyes is on the disabled list due to an elbow strain, and the club had hoped that he could be activated as soon as Wednesday, and certainly by Friday when the Cards host the Reds. However, manager Tony La Russa said Sunday that such a timetable is now in doubt.
"Just keep our fingers crossed," La Russa saud. "I'm not 100 percent confident, or the opposite, either way. Just don't know."
La Russa did allow that under the right circumstances, the club might activate a still-limited Reyes.
"I think he is a quality veteran who knows his arm real well and knows what's at stake, so I would have conversations that definitely included him, and his opinion would be highly respected. But at the same time, you've got to live with the decision. And if it's going to jeopardize his career and he wants to pitch some more, I wouldn't want to be part of that risk. So we'll have a conversation, and respect him, and see how he feels.
"I just know he's not throwing comfortably yet."
Yadier Molina returned to the Cardinals' lineup on Sunday after missing two games with a sore right knee. Molina will likely be available to play again on Monday, which is a night game after Sunday's day game. ... Manager Tony La Russa said that he did not meet former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at Saturday's "Restoring Honor" rally, in part because he wanted to stand by his insistence that his participation in the rally was of a non-political nature. ... Cardinals Care hosted the "Run Home For Kids" six-kilometer run in downtown St. Louis on Sunday.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. Reporter Bill Ladson contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.