Tempers get hot as Reds get win in series finale

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 20, 2003

CINCINNATI - When they get back together again, the Cubs and the Reds will have spent a long time apart.

They'll have had two months to stew, or two months to forget. Two months to plot revenge, or two months to let go and move on.

Which will it be?

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The NL Central rivals parted with angry words Thursday after the Reds won 3-1, splitting a four-game series that featured capacity crowds, a superstar's return and some parting punches.

''You've got two teams fighting for first place or to stay in the pennant race, and little things are upsetting,'' Reds manager Bob Boone said. ''Testosterone was flying around the field.''

That's not all that spilled out at Great American Ball Park this week.

The series represented Sammy Sosa's chance to get back into baseball - and fans' good graces - after a seven-game suspension for using a corked bat.

His return caught the fans' fancy. After drawing fewer than 29,000 fans for each of the first two games with Sosa still sitting, the Reds sold out the last two games with Sosa back to hitting.

He hit a prodigious two-run homer in his first game back Wednesday, then added two harmless singles on Thursday before a crowd of 41,692 that was polarized by the slugger's fall from grace.

When the Cubs came to town in April, Sosa was treated like baseball royalty. He got a standing ovation for hitting his 500th homer on April 4, the first historic hit at Great American Ball Park, and basked in adulation during the series.

This time, he heard more boos than cheers, an indication that he's got a lot of work ahead to refurbish his reputation. He didn't want to talk about it after Thursday's game.

Everyone else was talking about the second brawl at Great American in a week, and the teams' rematch next Sept. 12 at Wrigley Field.

''It's baseball. People will remember things,'' said Cubs starter Mark Prior (8-3), who went six innings. ''It's a tight race, and it's going to be intense to begin with, and this will probably carry over to the next time we play.''

What happened on Thursday was a matter of perspective. The view was different from each dugout.

Prior threw a pitch behind catcher Jason LaRue in the sixth, and Paul Wilson (5-4) hit Moises Alou in the leg with his first pitch in the top of the seventh. Alou grumbled, but went to first base without incident. His plunking appeared to be a payback, and the matter seemed finished.

Wilson came to bat in the bottom of the inning, trying to make a sacrifice bunt off Kyle Farnsworth with a runner on first and the Reds up 2-1. The hard-throwing reliever sailed a chest-high fastball inside, and Wilson lost his cool.

He whirled and yelled at Farnsworth, who yelled back. They traded words while drifting closer, then went at it. Wilson dropped his bat, and Farnsworth discarded his glove and tackled Wilson on the grass between home and the mound.

Both benches and bullpens emptied. Wilson eventually was pulled from the bottom of the pile with a cut on the bridge of his nose and blood smeared on his face and uniform.

Wilson wouldn't talk about the Reds' second fight in seven games. Both teams pointed fingers in blame.

''There was no question that Farnsworth threw at Wilson,'' Boone said. ''He was squaring to bunt. That's grounds for ejection right there.''

Farnsworth seemed surprised when Wilson yelled at the mound.

''It's a 2-1 game and he's trying to bunt and make an out,'' Farnsworth said. ''I'm not trying to hit him. He came at me, and I just did what I had to do. It kind of surprised me.''

The two pitchers were ejected, leaving the Reds with the prospect of losing yet another player to suspension. Adam Dunn and Sean Casey were ejected during a brawl with the Phillies last Friday, but haven't been punished by baseball yet.

The fallout could last long after the suspensions are served.

''I've got a question: Didn't they just get into a fight a couple days ago?'' Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. ''It looks like they've got some bad blood brewing with some other people.

''All I know is we're not the club to have bad blood with because we've got some guys that can hurt you with that ball. So I don't suggest too many people get into some knockdown war with us.''

Notes: Wilson gave up three hits in seven innings. He had a bandage on his nose after the game. … Sosa singled off Scott Williamson in the ninth, his first career hit off the closer. He was 0-for-13 with eight strikeouts before the hit. … The Cubs finished their trip 5-5 and returned home for a series against the crosstown rival White Sox at Wrigley Field. … Ken Griffey Jr. was out of the Reds lineup for the third consecutive game with a sore leg and hip. A precautionary MRI test on Wednesday night found inflammation, but nothing serious. He pinch hit and lined out.