Cards send a message in Cincinnati

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If the St. Louis Cardinals manage to hold on and win their second straight National League Central title, they may very well point to Tuesday as being the turning point in their season.

And, they will have Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips to thank for that.

Phillips took an under the radar race and put it on the national stage with these comments to a Reds writer: "I'd play against these guys with one leg. We have to beat these guys. I hate the Cardinals. All they do is b--ch and moan about everything, all of them, they're little b---es, all of 'em.

"I really hate the Cardinals. Compared to the Cardinals, I love the Chicago Cubs. Let me make this clear: I hate the Cardinals."

Of course, his comments came with his Reds two games ahead in the standings and shortly before the two teams engaged in an important three-game set at Great American Ball Park.

St. Louis may not have been aware of Phillips' remarks before the start of Monday night's opener, but rest assured the Cards were well aware of them heading into Tuesday's tilt when a full-fledged brawl with Phillips as the catalyst broke out before a pitch was even thrown.

Brandon Phillips took an under the radar race and put it on the national stage.
As if the comments weren't enough motivation for the Cardinals, the brawl seemed to energize Tony La Russa's club, who rolled to an 8-4 win that night, before completing the three-game sweep with a 6-1 win on Wednesday to move one game ahead of the Reds in the division with a little over a month and half to play.

For those keeping score, the Reds were outscored 21-8 in the series and managed a whopping nine hits in 19 2/3 innings off three St. Louis starters.

"It certainly added fuel to our fire, when you've got guys opening their mouth saying stupid stuff," said St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright, who won Wednesday's finale. "But we only use that in a positive way. It's very unprofessional to fire back. Just go out there and win the game on the field, not off the field. That's what we did this series."

Well done Mr. Phillips.

I have to admit I am tired of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. We needed some bad blood elsewhere in the league. A St. Louis-Cincinnati rivalry is good for baseball, especially since it looks like they are going to be trading places with each other atop the Central standings from here on out.

It's obvious the two managers despise each other. La Russa and Dusty Baker have had run-ins in the past. Tensions within the division is a good thing.

By the way make sure to mark September 4-6 on your calendars as these two teams will meet again for the final time in the regular season in a three-game series at Busch Stadium.

The Reds have not finished above .500 since 2000 and have not played in the postseason since five years before that. There was no need to rattle the Cardinals' cage.

Now is this sweep going to be the death knell to the Reds' postseason hopes?

No not by a long shot. In fact when it is all said and done I think they are going to wind up winning the wild card in the National League. Take a look at the schedules the rest of the way. The loser of the Central battle most certainly has the upper hand, considering the majority of their schedule the rest of the way comes against their own division, featuring the likes of the Houstons, Pittsburghs and Milwaukees of the world. Not to mention games against Arizona and Colorado.

Now, of course, the Cardinals play essentially the same teams down the stretch, so neither team really has an advantage in that regard. Bottom line is both teams are still in pretty good shape to reach the postseason.

To Phillips' credit he stood behind his words and even his teammates were kind of behind him, chalking it up to "Brandon being Brandon". I understand what he was trying to do, but it may have backfired on him, as it appears to have fired up the wrong team.

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