Before Friday night's game, it was evident that the Phillies and Giants were two clubs with a history. They didn't like each other—that much was certain. But after a bench-clearing brawl in the top of the sixth inning, these two teams just formed an all-out rivalry.
During the first pitch of Shane Victorino's third at-bat of the game, Giants pitcher Ramon Ramirez plunked Victorino in the lower back. Victorino, who homered in the top of the fourth, immediately threw his bat down and started walking toward the mound. Placido Polanco headed toward Victorino until being tackled to the ground by Giants catcher Eli Whiteside. And then the benches cleared.
The brawl lasted for several minutes, and was quite a bit more heated and physical than the comparably uneventful fight between the two clubs in Game 6 of last year's National League Championship Series. By the end of it, Victorino, Ramirez and Whiteside were ejected from the game.
The decision to hit Victorino may have been caused by Jimmy Rollins stealing a base earlier in the inning. Of course, the unwritten rule is that a team doesn't steal a bag when blowing out the other team. But with the score of the game at 8-2, could this really be considered a blowout? Especially with four innings left in the game? There have certainly been comebacks of even more insurmountable scores over the past few years.
Perhaps the brawl was sparked by the recent war of words between Charlie Manuel and Tim Lincecum. Manuel recently was quoted calling the Giants rotation was "good, not great." Lincecum took offense to that analysis, and it ultimately led to a half-hearted "apology" from Manuel himself.
The Phils have not had a serious rivalry since the 1993 season when they beat the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, advancing to the World Series before losing to Joe Carter and the Toronto Blue Jays. Sure there were the Mets rivalry of 2007 and 2008, the Yanks rivalry of 2009 and the Braves rivalry of last year, but those failed to ever mount any serious hatred or animosity between the the clubs.
This time, it's different. This is a real, genuine rivalry, that now ranks among the best in baseball. The fans don't like each other. The players don't like each other. If these two teams meet again in the NLCS this fall, it will surely be the most anticipated, hyped, fascinating and downright intense matchup in years.