CHICAGO — A grand slam, a bunch of runs and some tight pitches that caused a bench-clearing fracas.
St. Louis’ 12-4 victory Wednesday was just another day in the old, heated rivalry between the Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs.
“I don’t really know why it happens,” Jim Edmonds said. “Everybody keeps building it up, obviously something’s going to happen, whether it’s just exciting baseball or a little bit of words back and forth.”
This time, it was both. Edgar Renteria hit a grand slam, Edmonds drove in four runs on two home runs, the Cardinals spoiled Mark Prior’s second outing of the year, and some bad feelings that had been buried during the offseason resurfaced when Matt Morris buzzed a pitch at Derrek Lee’s head.
Both benches cleared in the fifth inning, but no punches were thrown and no one was ejected.
“It’s an intense rivalry,” Morris said. Morris gave up four runs and eight hits in five innings, walking four.
The rivalry was supposed to be between pitchers, though.
Morris (6-5) is the Cardinals’ top pitcher, but he is particularly abusive to the Cubs, bringing a 10-3 career record against them into Wednesday’s game. He was facing Prior, though, who is fresh off the disabled list after missing two months with right Achilles and elbow soreness.
When Prior came off the disabled list last year, he went 10-1 with a 1.52 ERA. It looked like more of the same in his first start Friday, for he retired his first 13 batters, allowed two hits and walked none in six scoreless innings against Pittsburgh.
He wasn’t nearly as crisp Wednesday. He lasted 3 2/3 innings and matched his career high with five walks, though one was intentional. He gave up five runs and five hits, and also threw a wild pitch.
“I just didn’t get it done,” Prior said. “We needed a win and I could have given this team better results. I just didn’t execute.”
Prior worked out of jams in the first and third innings, but he wasn’t so lucky in the fourth. He walked So Taguchi after getting ahead 0-2 in the count, then walked Yadier Molina. After Morris’ sacrifice bunt, Prior loaded the bases with a walk to Tony Womack. Prior had been ahead of Womack 0-2, too, and he bent over and placed his hands on his legs after throwing ball four.
It was about to get worse. Renteria sent Prior’s 2-0 pitch soaring over the wall in left-center for a grand slam and a 5-1 lead. It was Renteria’s first career hit off of Prior, and it ended the right-hander’s day.
“He was a little off today and I took advantage of it,” Renteria said “I was looking for a mistake. He’s a great pitcher, and he’s not going to make a lot of mistakes.”
Morris made a couple of mistakes, too, especially that pitch that almost hit Lee.
The Cubs had sent Taguchi and Edmonds sprawling earlier, and nothing is left unretaliated between these two teams. With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Morris buzzed Lee with two fastballs. The second rose as it neared the plate, and Lee had to hit the ground to avoid being beaned.
“My location wasn’t good all day,” Morris said. “That was a mistake. I was trying to go hard and in.”
Lee and the Cubs thought differently. Lee pointed at Morris and the St. Louis dugout when he got back up, and Morris screamed right back. Plate umpire Ed Rapuano pulled Lee back as the teams slowly started coming out of their dugouts, and Lee walked away from the plate. He started back toward the mound after someone said something to him, and both teams rushed forward.