CINCINNATI, Ohio (Reuters) - The race for top spot in the National League Central division took a physical turn when a brawl erupted during the first inning of a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday.
Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips got into an exchange of words with catcher Yadier Molina that led to a first-inning brawl with players from both team's benches on the field in a wild scene of pushing and shoving.
Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and Reds manager Dusty Baker were ejected after the seven-minute incident.
The conflict between the teams was stoked one day earlier when Phillips said he hated that Cardinals and that "all they do is (complain) and moan about everything, all of them."
As he does before each at bat, Phillips greeted Molina with a tap to his shin guards. But this time, a testy Molina kicked at Phillips' bat, which triggered the dispute.
"When you talk bad about my team and you talk bad about me don't say hi," Molina told reporters after he homered to lead his team to an 8-4 win. "You think I'm going to be in a good mood with (those) comments you made?"
With the victory, St. Louis tied Cincinnati for first place in the Central division. The teams meet again on Wednesday.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)