ST. LOUIS -- A crisply played game through eight innings Wednesday turned chippy in the ninth, when Nyjer Morgan's strikeout turned into a shouting match between the Brewers and Cardinals, the latest chapter of Morgan's complicated history with St. Louis. In the end, Morgan was ejected but no punches were thrown, and Chris Carpenter finished what he started, a 2-0 Cardinals win at Busch Stadium. It would have been remembered mostly as a duel between Carpenter and Zack Greinke had tempers not flared so suddenly in the ninth. It began with a 10-pitch strikeout and ended with players from both teams staring face to face on the infield grass.
Morgan insisted that Carpenter started things by yelling a two-word curse from the mound. "They're not going to see that," Morgan said, either referring to the umpiring crew or Carpenter's teammates. "They're going to see what I said." Morgan shot some pointed words back at Carpenter, then threw his chewing tobacco out on the field in the direction of the mound. Carpenter and Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols advanced, and both benches and bullpens cleared. "I just got in the middle to make sure that Morgan didn't jump on Carp," Pujols said. "The last thing you want is our guy that's trying a shutout game to lose his focus." Carpenter denied that he sparked things by cursing. "I didn't know anything was going on until I heard Albert," he said. "I'm not concerned about it to be honest with you. ... I'm not going to play his game. There's a certain way to compete and a certain way not to compete. [Morgan] competes hard but he does it in a different manner, which is unfortunate because it takes away from what kind of player he is. He is a really good player." The sides have history. Morgan had a disagreement with the Cardinals during Spring Training, when he was with the Nationals, that had roots in last August, when the Cardinals were furious with Morgan after he bowled over catcher Bryan Anderson in a 14-5 Washington win. St. Louis players argued the hit on Anderson was unnecessary. Then, earlier this season, Carpenter and Morgan had words in a game at Miller Park. "I actually like that guy," Pujols said. "I don't mind having a guy like that on my team. He brings a lot of energy to the ballclub, and you want to have a guy like that. But sometimes I think he goes [a little overboard] and tries to put too much energy. I remember when he came up with Pittsburgh, the guy just played the game, played hard all the time, never talks. And now you wonder why he's been on three different ballclubs the last year and a half, you know?" The Brewers and Cardinals had other issues, too, including back-and-forth plunkings of Pujols and Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun in August that promoted sharp words from both clubhouses. On Wednesday, Carpenter and Pujols both charged that Morgan had talked too much on the basepaths during the game. He doubled in the fourth inning -- the Brewers' only extra-base hit of Carpenter's four-hit shutout -- and walked in the sixth. "I was focused on what I was doing. I was focused on executing pitches and I'm not going to allow him to take me out of my game," Carpenter said. "He was yelling at me at second base. He was yelling at me down the line when he hit the double. The whole game he's screaming and yelling, the whole game. I'm not going to allow it to happen. I don't know if that's the way he plays, to try to get guys out of their game or what. But I've been around too long to allow that to happen, I can tell you that much." Pujols added, "Do whatever you want. But when you strike out like that and try to throw the chew to the mound to our pitcher and yell -- come on, man. You need to be more professional than that." The fracas prompted Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to weigh in. He said he usually avoids commenting about other teams' players. "He's having a good year for them, he's a talented guy, but he's close to the edge as far as creating problems and trouble," La Russa said. "It takes away from the player that he's been for them or wherever he's been with his fuse being so short and actually looking for things to instigate. So, I hope he gets a clue. "And he probably is going to get upset, or somebody will, that I gave advice, but it's the truth. It's the truth. He could be the player he is without instigating." Morgan chalked it up to competitiveness on both sides. "[Carpenter] was battling there, I was battling, too. He felt like he had to say something," Morgan said. "If he feels like he has to say something, let him say it, but then as soon as he said it, he turns his back and walks away. It's whatever. We're still in first place. Believe it." It was the first of three times during a 3 1/2-minute chat with reporters that Morgan reminded his listeners about the Brewers' place in the standings. After Wednesday's loss, their lead in the National League Central is 8 1/2 games. Morgan later took his case to Twitter, saying, "I hope those crying birds [enjoy] watching tha Crew in tha Playoffs!!!" He referred to Pujols as "Alberta." That came after Morgan had told reporters that the incident was "over with." So is the season series. The Brewers and Cardinals will not meet again until 2012.