The second baseman had words with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina when he came to bat in the bottom of the first inning Tuesday night. Phillips removed his helmet, and Molina took off his mask as their exchange escalated.
Both benches and bullpens emptied, but there was nothing more than shoving initially. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Reds manager Dusty Baker exchanged words in the middle of the crowd.
Reds third baseman Scott Rolen went after Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter near the edge of the crowd, and the two wound up crunched against the backstop. Carpenter, who got the win in a 7-3 victory Monday night, got shoved into the backstop screen.
Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto ended up with his back against the backstop, kicking furiously to free himself from the mob.
The altercation ended after seven minutes. Rolen went up to Carpenter to make amends. Both managers were ejected but no players.
Phillips continued his at-bat and grounded out, leaving him 0 for 6 in the series without a ball hit out of the infield. Molina had a pleasing moment in the top of the second, hitting a solo homer off Cueto. He pumped his arm before crossing the plate, then pointed at the sky and celebrated with teammates in the dugout.
Phillips got the showdown series started with a little animosity on Monday by saying he hated the Cardinals, whom he called complainers. Baker talked to him about the comments before the game on Tuesday, saying he wished the second baseman had kept his feelings to himself.
Phillips was more diplomatic after his talk with Baker, but didn't back down.
"Everybody, they respect me for what I said," Phillips said before Tuesday's game. "Those are my comments. A lot of people feel that way all throughout the league. Many people feel that way."
La Russa wasn't happy with Phillips' comment and mentioned it to Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, who worked with him in St. Louis.
The teams have a recent history of raw feelings. The Cardinals complained last season and again on Opening Day that the baseballs weren't properly rubbed up for the game in Cincinnati, leaving them slippery.
There's also a playoff subtext. The Cardinals are defending NL Central champs, but have been locked in a back-and-forth race with the upstart Reds since May. Cincinnati hasn't had a winning record since 2000 and hasn't been to the playoffs since 1995.
The Reds had a one-game lead going into the second game of their series. They play one more time, a three-game series in St. Louis from Sept. 3-5.