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Yadier Molina(notes) took exception to a seemingly friendly little bat tap from Cincinnati Reds leadoff man Brandon Phillips(notes).

Molina wanted nothing to do with the greeting, not after what Phillips said about the St. Louis Cardinals the night before.

After some jawing, it was on — a bench-clearing fight at Great American Ball Park that featured plenty of pushing and shoving, a little punching and even some mixed-up martial arts kicks by Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto(notes) — Cincy's starting pitcher. Not quite UFC-quality, but better than the usual baseball nonsense.

Ah, nothing like a little rage to fuel a pennant race.

Watch the Reds and Cards fight!

Umpires ejected both managers — but no players, not even Kung Fu Cueto or agitator Chris Carpenter(notes) — and heads cooled.

Molina even channeled/ignored his emotions by hitting a home run and driving in two runs to lead the Cardinals to an 8-4 victory Tuesday that put them in first place by percentage points in the NL Central. Two games into the Reds' biggest series of the season, they haven't looked up to the challenge.

"You don't talk to the newspapers, you talk to the ball," Cards broadcaster Mike Shannon said on the KTRS broadcast.

Well, it's OK with me if Phillips talks to the newspapers too. That helps make it fun.

Phillips set the tone for the series before Monday's game when he told media that "All [the Cardinals] do is bitch and moan about everything, all of them. They're little bitches, all of 'em.''

That's why Molina, he said, objected to Phillips' otherwise harmless actions.

"He talked bad about my team, he talked bad about me," Molina said on a postgame interview with Fox Sports Midwest. "Don't talk bad and come up and say 'hi' to me. That's stupid."

Molina and Phillips were separated, and the fight seemed to die a few seconds later with Scott Rolen(notes) — a former Cardinals player — trying to make peace. When Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa started to jaw among the umpires, Carpenter (the Cards' starting pitcher Monday night) interjected and screamed at Baker, which re-ignited the fight.

I'd want Carpenter pitching for my team — as long as he attends anger management classes between starts.

A mass of 50-some men pushed and shoved their way to the backstop, with Carpenter getting pushed against the screen. Someone, possibly Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes(notes), turned from peacemaker to puncher, getting a couple whacks on Carpenter.

Then Cueto went to work. Also pressed up against the screen, Cueto used the leverage to repeatedly kick several players, including Carpenter. Jason LaRue(notes) seemed to get the worst of it; La Russa suspects LaRue has a concussion.

"I don't know where he learned to fight," Carpenter said of Cueto.

Good job by Joey Votto(notes) to drag Cueto's silly butt out of the fracas before he got hurt, hurt someone else worse or got caught by the umpires.

Watch another angle, while it's available, of Cueto-san

Hopefully, the league office won't miss Cueto's fancy footwork when it reviews the video.

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Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave

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