The St. Louis Cardinals literally fought their way past division rival Cincinnati Reds and into first place Tuesday night.
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips opened the three-game series in Cincy by saying he hates the Cardinals and called them complainers.
He dug in to lead off the bottom of the first and tapped his bat on Cards catcher Yadier Molina's chin guard in a friendly gesture. Molina took offense to that.
The two men exchanged words while Phillips took a few swings outside the batters box. Phillips took off his helmet, Molina removed his mask, and both benches and bullpens cleared.
"The comment he made yesterday that he's got no friends over here, then why you touch me?" said Molina. "You are not my friend, so don't touch me. I mean, if we're no good for you, you are not my friend."
Scott Rolen, a former Cardinal, went after St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter, who beat the Reds in the series opener on Monday 7-3, trying to stop the altercation. But, that too escalated.
Carpenter ended up pinned against the backstop screen. Johnny Cueto, the Reds starting pitcher was most affected by the mayhem. Cueto was also caught against the backstop.
He frantically kicked away St. Louis players, hitting Cards catcher Jason LaRue in the head and scratching Carpenter several times. Cueto said he was trying to protect himself.
Cards manager Tony La Russa and Reds manager Dusty Baker were both ejected in that first inning brawl.
Molina hit a solo homer off Cueto in the second inning and later added a sacrifice fly. The Cards defeated the Reds 8-4 and moved into first place in the NL Central.
This first inning brawl brawl between division rivals is great for Major League Baseball. These two teams have been in first and second place in the central division for 94 straight days.
All-Star players standing up for their teammates is great for baseball. Competitive games between division foes is great for baseball. Coaches protecting their players is great for baseball.
These two teams are currently tied for the division lead. The two teams won't play again until early September. The Cards are 9-5 against Cincinnati and have won four of the last series against the Reds.
This rival and hatred for each other will make for some great, competitive baseball down the stretch.
This fight will have each player on both teams wanting to win even more. This is only the beginning and I look forward to the season finale in St. Louis.