His manager wished Brandon Phillips hadn’t called the Cardinals names, but the Reds second baseman wasn’t backing down Tuesday from his critical comments of the team a day earlier.
And the Cardinals weren’t shy about responding to Phillips’ rant. The resulting exchange touched off a first-inning brawl in Game 2 of the NL Central rivals’ series.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina made his feelings known when Phillips came to bat in the bottom of the first inning. Phillips tapped Molina’s shin guard with his bat, a ritual Phillips performs before every at-bat. Molina took offense.
"The comment he made yesterday that he’s got no friends over here — then why you touch me?" Molina told reporters after the Cardinals’ 8-4 victory. "You are not my friend, so don’t touch me. I mean, if we’re no good for you, you are not my friend."
Molina’s reaction sparked a heated exchange between the two at home plate. The benches and bullpens quickly emptied.
Reds manager Dusty Baker and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa got into a shouting match during the scrum. Both were ejected.
As Baker and La Russa were having their exchange, Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter yelled at Baker, who responded in kind. Judging from video footage, Reds third baseman Scott Rolen, a former Cardinal, came to Baker’s defense and tried to push Carpenter away. The ensuing pileup stopped at the backstop behind home plate.
"It was two teams defending their own people, and standing up for their own players and managers and coaches, so … that got ugly and obviously it was heated when it started," Rolen said.
Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto soon was pinned against the netting. He tried to kick way out, injuring Carpenter and Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue in the process.
"I was in the net, with somebody kicking me from behind. Where I was held down. I couldn’t do anything," Carpenter told reporters after the game, per the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz. "I wasn’t throwing any punches. And we’ve got some guy kicking me and kicking my backup catcher in the face. He could have done some real damage. … Totally unprofessional. Unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like that."
Baker had a slightly different take on Cueto’s situation: "They had him pinned up like a rat in a corner. It wasn’t pretty," Baker told reporters.
"I don’t know where Cueto learned how to fight," Carpenter said.
The Post-Dispatch reported LaRue might have a concussion and could be placed on the disabled list. LaRue did not discuss his condition with reporters after the game.
Phillips, who made the final out Tuesday, had little to say about the fight.
"We lost today, man. Regardless of what happened, we lost and that’s the only thing that really (stunk) today. … We’re just mad that we lost the game," he said.
Earlier Tuesday, Phillips stood by his comments of a day earlier.
"People (other than the Cardinals and their fans) respect me for what I said," Phillips told reporters before the second game of the teams’ series in Cincinnati. "Those were my comments, and a lot of people feel that way all throughout the league — many people feel that way. Regardless of what I say, we’ve got to go out there and take care of business."
Phillips told the Dayton Daily News’ Hal McCoy that he "hated" the Cardinals and that they were constant complainers.
La Russa expressed his anger over the comments following Monday night’s Cardinals victory, and Baker said he expressed his displeasure to Phillips on Tuesday.
"Brandon knows what he’s saying," Baker told reporters. "It doesn’t make it right, but he knows what he’s saying and that’s his opinion.
"I talked to him about it and put a little pressure on him to play better personally. The Cardinals have given him a pretty rough time historically." Phillips was 0-for-5 Monday night.
Baker’s scolding and La Russa’s reaction didn’t deter Phillips.
"To tell you the truth, I really don’t care what (La Russa) said. I play for the Cincinnati Reds; I don’t play for the Cardinals," Phillips told reporters. "I respect him for what he said, but we have to go out there and beat the Cardinals regardless (of what) he said or what I said."
Phillips scoffed at La Russa’s claim that Phillips unwittingly ripped some of his teammates who once played for the Cardinals.
"I said what I said. That’s all I can say. They can say what they want. I don’t give a (expletive) what they say," Phillips said.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.