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Should the Cubs expect payback from the St. Louis Cardinals after a Mike Montgomery fastball broke Matt Holliday’s right thumb? 

It’s the fuse waiting to be lit, given the history between these two teams and the escalating tensions within the rivalry, the Cardinals no longer being “the big brother,” as Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer has said, or big fans of Joe Maddon’s “Try Not To Suck” act.

That might have been Holliday’s last at-bat in a St. Louis uniform on Thursday night at Wrigley Field, depending on the treatment plan and whether or not the Cardinals pick up the All-Star outfielder’s $17 million option for 2017 or pay the $1 million buyout.

“That’s an absolute accident,” Maddon said Friday. “It just depends on your philosophy within, how you’ve been raised, what you think is the right way to do things. We’ve all had different parents, so some people react to situations one way.

“Truthfully, if that had happened to us, there’s no reason to (respond). It’s purely an accident. You know when something’s intentionally done or not. It really comes down to parenting.”

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With the best record in baseball and a double-digit lead in the division, Maddon took a more measured tone than last year’s calculated “Sopranos” rant, comparing the Cardinals to a crime family and saying he never read the franchise’s book on how to play the game.

 

“Was that a rant?” Maddon said. “It was a mini-rant. I don’t know. We’ll wait and see. I’d like to believe that the other side would determine, obviously, that it was an accident. But, again, it always comes down to parenting.”

Montgomery hadn’t pitched in a game since July 31, or really established himself at all since getting traded from the Seattle Mariners three weeks ago. The lefty swingman drilled Holliday, the third batter he faced, with two outs in the 10th inning of a tie game.

“It was just a pitch that got away,” Montgomery said after earning the win in a 4-3 walk-off victory that took 11 innings. “I never want to hurt anybody. I feel bad. It’s a part of baseball and it’s unfortunate. I was just trying to go in right there and it kind of went away from me a little bit.

“I would never want to see (that happen) to anybody. Your intent is never to do that. I definitely feel for him. It wasn’t on purpose. It was just one of those pitches in a big part of the game.”

Ex-Cub Andrew Cashner recently called retaliation part of “The Cardinal Way” after St. Louis hit Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, echoing Maddon’s vigilante message from last September.

“It happens,” Maddon said. “It’s just like ‘Stropy’ (Pedro Strop) sliding to pick up a ball and hurts his knee. It’s an accident. Montgomery is definitely not trying to hit (Holliday). At the end of the day, man, it does come down to parenting and what you’re taught and what you believe is the right way to do things.”