A dispute between the two teams over a play on the basepaths nearly turned into a full-on fight on Sunday afternoon. Both benches and bullpens emptied and Cardinals reliever Ron Villone was ejected, but no punches were exchanged.
With the Pirates leading by a 7-2 score, Doug Mientkiewicz was on first base with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning. Freddy Sanchez hit a grounder to Aaron Miles at second base. Miles went to tag Mientkiewicz, hoping to begin a double play, and Mientkiewicz knocked the ball out of Miles' glove.
"I got too far, went after the glove to try to knock the ball out," Mientkiewicz said. "I've played second base one start in my career, and I got plowed on my rear end."
Rather than calling an out for interference, however, the umpires let the play stand. That didn't sit well with Miles or with manager Tony La Russa, who came out to argue the call, to no avail. However, the next batter, Luis Cruz, lined to shortstop Brendan Ryan, who fired to Miles, who doubled Mientkiewicz off of second.
From there, it got heated. Miles took a moment to rub it in to Mientkiewicz, who came up firing. The benches cleared onto the field, followed by the bullpens, and a scrum was on.
"When I got him out," Miles said, "I said, 'You're out. You're out of here. You're gone.' I was just kind of a little mad at the dirty play, and whatever. He reacted to it. I've said it before to guys, and they haven't said anything. Sometimes I say it because I'm excited."
The altercation remained relatively restrained, except for an exchange between former Yankees teammates Mientkiewicz and Villone. Something that Mientkiewicz said set Villone off, and it ultimately took three teammates to restrain Villone. The left-hander was the only player ejected.
"[Mientkiewicz] got away with a play," Villone said. "Maybe he's mad that he got doubled out. I'm upset that we lost. We move on. But I'm not going to let somebody sit there and just try to take advantage of my teammates."
Ironically, Mientkiewicz was on the receiving end of a similar play in the 2004 American League Championship Series. In Game 6 of that series, Alex Rodriguez slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's hands while Mientkiewicz was playing first base. Rodriguez was called out for interference.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Todd Krise contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.