As the calendar turns to September, MLB pennant races heat up and tempers flare. With the Pittsburgh Pirates 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot in the National League, their midweek series against the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds, the predictable intensity of matchup of division rival with October aspirations may have crossed the line. Shortly after Cincinnati edged Pittsburgh, 4-3, in 14 innings at Great American Ball Park, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips took to Twitter and insinuated that a Pirates player made a racist remark during the game.
Phillips did not identify the Pittsburgh player who he was accusing of hurling a racist insult or specify the point in the game when this exchange occurred. The two-time All-Star was involved in a tense moment in the eighth inning when Pittsburgh pitcher Jared Hughes plunked him. After being hit with the first pitch of the at-bat, Phillips briefly stood at home plate before he started walking towards first base. He picked up the ball and tossed it back to Hughes himself. The announcer noted that Hughes had "a few words to say" as Phillips made his way to first and the home plate umpire warned both clubs. Those words were not audible on the broadcast and it's unclear if there was anything more said than the run-of-the-mill batter-pitcher trash talk.
"I was not expecting the ball to come back towards me," Hughes said after the game, via John Fay of Cincinnati.com. "Usually the ball goes to the bat boy after someone gets hit. I was kind of startled, and it upset me."
Hughes was not the only player "upset" with Phillips at the time. Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett also was hollering at Phillips from the Pirates' dugout, according to Big League Stew. Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen also shared a few words with Phillips after the conclusion of the inning, as noted by The Score (who has a timeline of screen grabs from the entire inning).
According to the Indianapolis Star, Major League Baseball is aware of the accusation.