SAN FRANCISCO -- Any number of factors may have sparked Friday night's sixth-inning dispute between the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies.It might have been San Francisco's building frustration over its poor play and precarious half-game lead in the National League West. It could have been Jimmy Rollins' steal of second base with a six-run lead. It may have been Ramon Ramirez's frustration at getting hit around by the Phillies. Or perhaps, as Phillies manager Charlie Manuel suggested, it was simply the fact that Shane Victorino was plunked by Ramirez and had to defend his pride. Regardless of the cause, the final outcome was a benches-clearing scrum at AT&T Park full of pushing and shoving that ended with three ejections -- Ramirez, Victorino and Giants catcher Eli Whiteside -- and could result in suspensions. With Philadelphia, which won, 9-2, having added three sixth-inning runs to widen its lead to 8-2, Ramirez struck Victorino in the back with the first pitch. Victorino stepped toward the pitcher's mound instead of first base, a certain sign that hostilities would ensue, and Whiteside moved to protect Ramirez, bouncing in front of Victorino like a boxer and eventually tackling Placido Polanco as he came onto the scene. From there, the fracas was on. "[Ramirez] hit Vic and then came off the mound at him. Vic almost has to go, unless he wants his teammates to call him chicken," Manuel said. "That's the way baseball works. I've been playing for almost 50 years. He pretty much called him out." Home-plate umpire Mike Muchlinski immediately signaled that Ramirez was ejected and attempted to keep Victorino from entering the fray. Players and coaches from both sides began streaming out of their dugouts, and Victorino bumped the umpire and eventually made his way back into the mix. At one point, Giants left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, apparently trying to play peacemaker, grabbed Victorino and tried to disentangle him from the knot of players. Soon, however, Victorino broke free, scooted behind the scrum's outer edge and plunged into Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens. "He's fine," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, reporting no injuries on the Giants' side. "I don't think you can hurt Bam Bam." Whiteside, who declined to comment on the fight itself, said he didn't think the Phillies had done anything objectionable up until that point, but Giants right fielder Carlos Beltran implied that Rollins' swipe of second base earlier that inning may have contributed to the rising tensions. "You should ask Jimmy Rollins about that," Beltran said. "I wouldn't have done it." Beltran added that he thought Whiteside was simply getting in front of Victorino to keep the outfielder from charging the mound and doing "anything out of the ordinary." Whiteside said he called for an inside fastball from Ramirez, who gave up three runs on four hits and a walk in one inning of work, but the pitch went, "you know, a little too far inside." While nobody in the Giants clubhouse would explicitly state whether the plunking was intentional, Manuel and Victorino had no doubt it was. "I feel like he threw at me, and that's what I felt. Obviously, that's why I stepped forward," Victorino said. "But again, I had no intentions of charging the mound and escalating the fight for no reason. It was the heat of the moment and I just wanted to step forward and be like, 'What was the purpose?' And things escalated from there. "I didn't see any punches thrown. That says a lot about guys trying to break it up more than escalating into a bigger fight. It wasn't one of those things where guys were trying to hurt anybody. We'll squash it at that and hopefully go out and play the game of baseball. I'm not going to hold any grudges on anything." On the other side, the Giants maintained that the fracas had nothing to do with sending a message or venting any frustration -- it was just simply part of the game. "It's baseball. It's competition," Bochy said. "We're not playing very well right now. We're in a funk. Things weren't going well. They took exception, which they're going to. You get hit like that, it's part of the game. It happens and you deal with it."
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.