Pete Kozma, the Cardinals' shortstop who delivered a knockout blow to the Nationals in Game 5 of their Division Series in October, returned to a chorus of booing Monday night at Nationals Park.
Afterward, he said getting booed was a first. Given what he did against the Nationals last season, including a key two-run single in the Cardinals' 9-7 comeback win in Game 5 of the NLDS, Kozma is becoming to D.C. baseball fans what another shortstop, Bucky Dent, is to the Red Sox. The light-hitting Dent hit a home run for the Yankees in a one-game playoff in 1978 to sink the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
"I've never been booed before, so it was kind of a strange feeling," Kozma said after the Cardinals' 3-2 win over the Nationals. "The booing gave me a little fuel. It helped me. I wanted to do well.''
Kozma hit .233, .258 and .231 in his first three minor league seasons for the Cardinals before getting called up to the big club in September of last season to replace the injured Rafael Furcal. Kozma hit .333 in 26 games. He had seven hits against the Nationals in a three-game series and then had four hits, including a double, a home run and five walks, versus the Nationals in the Division Series.
Kozma was booed at Nationals Park as he stepped to the plate in the first inning. He hit a single to right and the booing started over. He finished 1-for-2 with two walks and a strikeout. Kozma said he expected the response, "but it was louder than I expected it to be."
He has no idea why he hits well against the Nationals, but he does like the feel of Nationals Park.
"I like this place. It's a good place to hit," he said. "I see the ball well and I feel comfortable here."
On to other news and notes:
* Rookie Anthony Rendon recorded his first hit and RBI for the Nationals Monday night. But, while he's expected to return to the minors when Ryan Zimmerman comes off the disabled list, he's got a chance to be one of the few rookies making April contributions:
Catcher Evan Gattis, 26, is hitting with power and if keeps it up, the Braves are going to have a difficult time finding him a position when Brian McCann returns from the disabled list. Gattis can play left, where the Braves have Justin Upton, and first base, where the Braves have Freddie Freeman. And the Braves' backup catcher is Gerald Laird, who is a solid defensive guy. ... White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie, acquired in a trade from San Francisco, made a first impression on his new team when he hit a triple against Seattle pitcher Felix Hernandez. ... Cardinals manager Mike Matheny tries to get Matt Adams' bat into the lineup twice a week, which means he has to rest left fielder Matt Holliday or move first baseman Allen Craig to the outfield. Adams is hitting .524.
* With Rendon, the Nationals could have three options at second base. In addition to Danny Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi, there's also Rendon. His Double-A manager at Harrisburg said that Rendon has been been playing shortstop and second base, and has the ability with his feet and hands to make the quick adjustments to play second base.
* No doubt the Orioles are going to get calls from teams interested in pitcher Jake Arrieta. Teams are likely to think that the slumping Arrieta, who was demoted to the minors Monday, can be acquired on the cheap. Arrieta has talent. The Orioles are frustrated with his walk totals. Arrieta is the classic case of a pitcher needing a fresh start with another organization.
* Outfielder Carl Crawford, with wrist and elbow injuries, was the Dodgers' biggest question mark going into spring training. He wasn't sure he was going to be ready for opening day. But he was, and now he's one of the National League's leading hitters. Crawford had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, and like a pitcher, he had to reconstruct his throwing motion.
He's throwing more over-hand than sidearm from the outfield.
"And that's putting less stress on my whole body, mostly my elbow," he said. "It feels a lot better, and it's healthier."