Benches empty after Phillips gets hit by Watson

Benches empty after Phillips gets hit by Watson

CINCINNATI -- Tempers are never far below the surface when the Pirates, the Reds and the National League Central rivals' mutual philosophies of pitching inside clash. Those emotions boiled above the surface in the eighth inning of Sunday's game with the Reds.

Left-handed reliever Tony Watson's first pitch to Brandon Phillips hit the Reds' second baseman on the upper left arm. Maybe it was retaliation for Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen being plunked by Pedro Villarreal in the top of the eighth. Maybe it wasn't. For sure, however, it led to three separate on-field incidents that slowed down the Bucs' 3-0 victory, and drew ejections for Sean Rodriguez and Mark Melancon of the Pirates and Marlon Byrd and Joey Votto of the Reds.

Reds, Pirates on tension

While plate umpire D.J. Reyburn got between Phillips and Watson, Byrd led a charge out of the Reds' first-base dugout that was quickly met by a similar onrush of Pirates from the third base side.

"Old-school baseball stuff," Watson said. "I'm always pounding the fastball inside. I don't need to stand here and explain it."

If you want to consider the fracas a two-day affair, it might have begun with Joe Blanton hitting Byrd in the eighth inning of Saturday night's game.

"Last night they threw at my head, and they missed," Byrd said. "The line is whenever you go above somebody's shoulder, there it is. That's the line. I went out there because they hit one of our teammates."

It then might have picked up with McCutchen taking one in the small of the back from Villarreal, with two outs and Jaff Decker on second in the eighth.

"I was a bit surprised. If you want to retaliate, answer back, do it pretty early, join the game," McCutchen said. "Get it over with. Don't wait till the eighth inning and -- I'm not being cocky -- get the best player on the team. Unless Marlon Byrd is the best player for them … I don't know.

"Good thing is, they're in our division, so I get to face that guy [Villarreal] again. I'm looking forward to it."

As both bullpens also emptied to join the scrum in the middle of the infield, Todd Frazier, Votto and Byrd of the Reds and Francisco Cervelli, Rodriguez and Blanton were the most heated participants.

"We are not trying to hit a guy down three in the eighth inning," Frazier said, "and they came back on a purpose pitch that hit Brandon. Basically just enough's enough, because it always seems like they always have the last laugh with hitting us last, so we got to pick each other up and help our teammates out."

"We were all out there. I was just there to support my teammates," said Blanton, one of the newest Pirates as a Trade Deadline acquisition.

"I got no comment," said Rodriguez who, as Pirates manager Clint Hurdle saw it, "I think, at one point, he was trying to break it up, and someone got his hands on him and pushed him."

"There was a lot going on out there," Hurdle added. "You can't see all around you. I just wanted to grab [Rodriguez], keep him in play. I wasn't able to do that."

At one point, the umpiring crew had almost successfully shepherded everyone back to their places. But as the jawing continued, the two groups again congregated in the middle of the field.

In particular, Rodriguez was livid and tried to get at Byrd, but teammates' barrel holds held him back.

When the umpires were able to clear the field and the game resumed, Rodriguez and two Reds were ejected -- Byrd and Votto, who was not in the game to begin with, having gotten a day of rest.

Melancon drew his ejection after he entered to save the game in the ninth. With a runner already on second base and one out, he clipped lefty-hitting Tucker Barnhart and got an automatic thumb from Reyburn. The normally reserved closer stormed off the mound, enraged.

"A feel for the game is necessary there. I'm not trying to bring the tying run to the plate," said Melancon, who said it was the first ejection of his career.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.