Backe, Pujols exchange words

HOUSTON The exchange, which happened in front of Astros manager Cecil Cooper, lasted a few minutes. It involved yelling and ended with Cooper putting his arm across Backe and guiding him away from Pujols.

The incident apparently revolved around Pujols sliding into Astros catcher J.R. Towles in the eighth inning of the Cardinals' 5-3 win over the Astros on Tuesday. Towles said Pujols called the clubhouse after the game last night to apologize for the way he slid into home plate.

Towles said he thought Pujols slid into him instead of sliding into the plate, but that he accepted his apology and "it was over."

Backe, a right-handed starter, said Pujols approached him and asked why he was "pressing on about it." Pujols wouldn't discuss it in detail, but said: "he had a problem with me calling over there."

"You guys don't need to make this bigger than it is," an obviously annoyed Pujols said before walking off.

Backe had plenty to say about it though.

"I felt violated," Backe said. "I felt like he confronted me at a wrong time. I don't think it was very professional."

Backe was still red-faced from the exchange several minutes after it ended.

"It's apparent that we don't like each other," he said. "That's OK. There's plenty of other people I don't like in this game. It doesn't matter. The competition between he and I just escalated."

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