The adrenaline had subsided by the end of the night, replaced instead by chuckling explanations of what went on in the pile. Brian Schneider was at the bottom of it, along with fellow catcher Carlos Ruiz. Ryan Howard was late because he was in the batting cage. Only the swell in crowd noise alerted him to what was going on.
What was going on was something less than a brawl but something more than a shoving match. Call it a scrum. Shane Victorino was hit in the back with a pitch by Ramon Ramirez with the Phillies leading 8-2 with two out in the sixth inning. The unanimous feeling in the Phillies clubhouse was that the pitch was intentional: Charlie Manuel and Vance Worley said they had no doubt about it, as did Victorino.
It is unclear what sparked it. Maybe it was Shane Victorino's earlier home run, or the one he hit the day before. Maybe it was Jimmy Rollins stealing with a six-run lead, although six runs is hardly an insurmountable lead, particularly in the sixth inning. Or maybe it was just that, for the previous 48 hours, the Phillies had made the Giants look like a Little League team, particularly last night, when they showed zero respect for Carlos Beltran's arm or range in right field and hit three home runs: one from Victorino, one from John Mayberry Jr., and one from Hunter Pence.
"I think us hitting them upset them," Manuel said.
Indeed, the Phillies hit them hard, and in two games have seized all of the momentum the Giants had built between last year's NLCS victory and last week's series in which they took 2 out of 3 at Citizens Bank Park.
Victorino said later he had no intention of charging the mound, that his only desire when he stepped forward was to say a few words to the pitcher who had just drilled him in the back.
"I had no intention of going out there and charging the mound," Victorino said. "I just wanted to know why, in that situation, he was around the plate all night, throughout that inning, and two outs, and first pitch is at my back. I just wanted to go out there and get an answer."
Eli Whiteside apparently was not in the mood to mediate a session in which Victorino and Ramirez shared their feelings with each other. After Victorino stepped forward, and Ramirez stepped off the mound, the Giants catcher started bouncing up and down like a boxer. This prompted Placido Polanco, bad back and all, to charge in from third base. Whiteside attempted to tackle Polanco, but Polanco held his ground and remained upright as Whiteside, a former high school quarterback, wrapped up his lower body.
"I had no intention of charging the mound," Victorino said. "Obviously, Eli felt like, from looking at his reaction, that I was going to go and he started jumping around. Polanco came in and he tackled Polanco and everything escalated from there."
Later, as Victorino recounted his version of the events, Polanco was sitting at a table eating Chinese food and listening to the interview.
"He did not tackle me!" Polanco shouted after overhearing Victorino claim otherwise.
Both benches and bullpens spilled around Polanco and Whiteside, with Brian Schneider and Carlos Ruiz ending up at the bottom of the pile. Screen captures of the incident appear to show a Giants player locking Ruiz in a choke hold. But all the participants said later they emerged unscathed. No punches were thrown on the Phillies side, although it took umpires awhile to restore order.
Victorino was restrained at first by an umpire, then by Phillies hitting coach Greg Gross before finally breaking free and tackling a member of the Giants coaching staff, in what Victorino said was an attempt to free Ruiz from the aforementioned choke hold.
Victorino said he did not know if he would get suspended, although he argued that because he did not throw any punches, he should not be subject to one.
Whiteside said after the game that he did not think anybody on the Phillies side had done anything to warrant a purpose pitch. Ramirez was not available for comment.
Nobody on the Phillies side seemed to think that any bad blood would linger into today.
"It was a regular brawl," Polanco said. "It's not the first one you're going to see and it's not going to be the last one."
It's safe to say that the Giants and the Phillies are now officially constitute a rivalry. And like the Phillies' previous NL West rivalry with the Dodgers, Victorino once again is front and center. Afterward, he joked that before long every baseball fan in the state of California is going to hate him.
But he clearly has the respect of his teammates, which right now is all that seems to matter.
Lost in all the ruckus was another splendid start by Vance Worley, who allowed two runs in seven innings while improving to 8-1 with a 2.35 ERA. Making it extra special was the fact that he grew up in the Bay Area. A lot of people don't realize that baseball players pay for their own tickets, which for a rookie like Worley can mean a healthy chunk of change. The mohawked righthander said he left eight tickets at willcall. Seven were for his friends and family. The eighth?
"My barber," he said.
Here's a great note. Hunter Pence has yet to lose a game since joining the Phillies. Yesterday win was his seventh victory as a Phillie, which is the same number of victories he experienced in his final 30 games as an Astro.
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