ST. LOUIS -- D-backs manager Torey Lovullo doesn't deny using the vulgar word that set Yadier Molina off and sparked a benches-clearing incident Sunday at Busch Stadium. But Lovullo said Molina misread his intent, which was not personal.
Either way, tempers flared in near-freezing conditions early in Arizona's 4-1 win over the Cardinals. And the fracas that ensued centered on a heated exchange between Lovullo and Molina.
"It's the first time I've seen anything like that happen," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I'd like to say I wouldn't have done it. Everybody handles things like they handle them. You get thrown into a situation, you do what you do."
Already ejected by home-plate umpire Tim Timmons for arguing balls and strikes, Lovullo pointed at Molina while pleading his case to Timmons in the second inning. Both Lovullo and Molina confirmed the skipper used a profanity in reference to Molina, prompting the catcher to react. The ensuing chaos resulted in Molina's mask flying off and both benches and bullpens clearing, but no punches were thrown and there were no other ejections.
"I was right around the corner, and he called me a [expletive] twice," Molina said. "I reacted that way. If you're going to call [expletive] to a guy, you've got to be ready to fight."
"It really wasn't directed at him," Lovullo said. "I'm just human. I'm like everybody else, and I see things and I react to things, and I was frustrated. I don't want to say he's getting more [strikes] than anybody else. It's a part of the game that's very real. I was just frustrated over what I was watching, and probably took things too far."
Lovullo originally left the dugout to protest a called third strike against center fielder A.J. Pollock, who became the third of the D-backs' first four batters to strike out when Timmons rung him up to begin the inning.
Both teams expressed frustration with the strike zone over the course of this three-game series, which the D-backs won, two games to one. The complaints directed at Timmons came early Sunday, after D-backs left fielder David Peralta struck out looking to lead off the game.
"I just asked him, 'What's going on here?' And maybe threw in a really descriptive adjective," Lovullo said. "He had every right to eject me."
What Lovullo did not anticipate was Molina approaching from behind Timmons after overhearing the argument. Lovullo threw his hands in the air while Timmons fought to hold Molina back, before Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter, D-backs on-deck hitter Daniel Descalso and Matheny eventually swooped in to surround the eight-time All-Star.
The fracas halted the game for several minutes, after which Molina was allowed to return to his position. Pollock remained in the game as well.
"He made a comment that was aggressive that Yadi overheard, so that's why Yadi reacted the way that he did," Timmons said. "I think, at that point, Yadi became agitated, which was understandable."
"I hope that MLB sees this, and I hope they fine this guy," Molina said. "Because you cannot allow that. You can't talk to a player like that or an umpire. You've got to be professional."
Asked why he thought Lovullo used the language he did, Molina said: "I don't know. I hope he can tell me right in my face."
"I can't quite get into what he was thinking," Lovullo said. "I'm sure he felt he heard something he didn't like that made him uncomfortable. That's where I probably need to use a better choice of words. I wasn't saying it to him. I was just referencing him in the wrong way, and I understood why he got frustrated. I don't hold anything against him."