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05/13/10 6:22 PM ET

Carpenter, Lee exchange words after popup

Benches clear in St. Louis, but situation doesn't escalate

ST. LOUIS -- Words were exchanged, benches and bullpens emptied and emotions were running extremely high in the third inning of the Astros' 4-1 victory over the Cardinals on Thursday, for what turned out to be nothing more than a harmless shouting match between Houston left fielder Carlos Lee and St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter.

Lee pounded his bat in the ground after popping out to shortstop with runners at first and second base, and appeared to be yelling at himself in frustration. Carpenter stared at Lee jogging down the line and began yelling back.

Both players were separated, and warnings were issued to both dugouts before the next pitch was thrown. After the game, neither Lee nor Carpenter was backing down.

"I wasn't trying to show him up," Lee said. "I never looked at him. I got [mad] because I got a pitch to hit and I popped it up. I was mad at myself. I don't know what he said to me, but he said something and was looking at me, staring at me. For what?"

Carpenter placed the blame on Lee.

"It wasn't a big deal," St. Louis' ace said. "I don't know why it turned into a big deal. Things happen. I said something, he said something. He kept coming at it. He's the one that caused everybody to come out, not me. I was just telling him there's no need for it."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa contended that Carpenter did nothing wrong.

"Well, routinely now, hitters pop up a pitch they think they should do [something] with, and they start making noises, and that really is disrespectful to the pitcher," La Russa said. "Most of the pitchers just turn around and ignore it. Carp doesn't. And I think Carp's in the right.

"I think respect should go both ways. He gets you out, he gets you out. Just zip it and go back. He gives it up, you zip it and let the guy go around the bases. Most pitchers, they let the guys jabber. I don't think Carlos Lee is anything special as far as a guy who disrespects, but it's so common now."

Lee said Carpenter was yelling after giving up an RBI single to Lance Berkman in the at-bat prior to Lee's.

"I guess he's allowed to yell and say anything he wants because when Lance got that hit, he was screaming and yelling and saying all kinds of stuff out there," Lee said. "But as a hitter, we can't get emotional? Why? I got a pitch to hit and got mad because I should have hit it and I popped it up. I got mad at myself."

Berkman tried to be more diplomatic.

"Both guys are competitors and emotions run high out there," Berkman said. "Carp's not happy when he makes a bad pitch, and Carlos isn't happy if takes a swing at a pitch he didn't want to swing at and he thought he should have hit better.

"I know Carlos wasn't yelling at Chris or meaning to be disrespectful to him. He was yelling at himself, and I do that all the time. It's just frustration and emotions because guys are out there to compete. To me, it's not a big deal."

Astros manager Brad Mills was relieved the situation didn't get out of hand.

"Something was said to Carlos, I guess," he said. "I really don't know the whole thing. We didn't want it to escalate, that's all."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.