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08/05/12 12:58 PM ET

Seeing Red: Bucs' success brews healthy rivalry

CINCINNATI -- They'll part after Sunday's game. But the Pirates and the Reds will remain on each other's minds. And in five weeks, they'll be back in each other's faces.

It has been a long while since the Bucs were good enough to inspire a meaningful rivalry with anyone. That clearly has changed this season. Besides the stakes, tempers have risen in the games between the Bucs and the Reds, as evidenced in the first two games of this series.

Andrew McCutchen was plunked on Friday by Aroldis Chapman, and Josh Harrison took one from Mike Leake on Saturday.

While not suggesting that either was intentional, Jeff Banister, the Pirates' bench coach who took over as acting manager following Clint Hurdle's second-inning ejection Saturday, said something more basic may have been behind those pitches.

"This is their turf, and they're trying to bully us," said Banister, a throwback who relishes the competition.

Interesting choice of words, because that is pretty much how Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker viewed the hard tag applied by Jared Hughes on Dioner Navarro in the eighth inning of Saturday's game. Navarro, the 5-foot-9 Reds catcher, had hit a slow roller up the first-base line picked up by the 6-foot-7 Hughes, whose tag resembled a football forearm block.

"That's a bully move," Baker said of the tag.

Afterward, Hughes said he just "wanted to make sure I got him out." The rookie reliever also admitted being quite upset by the manner in which he had surrendered the eventual winning run -- on a high-chopper to him by Todd Frazier that scored Scott Rolen from third base.

"A very frustrating way for them to score," Hughes said.

The level of frustration will always correspond to the level of passion. That's the Pirates-Reds, 2012 vintage. It will continue here on Sept. 10-12 -- and culminate in PNC Park on Sept. 28-30.

PNC Park set to welcome Marte for home debut

CINCINNATI -- Pirates fans are about to get their first in-person looks at someone they have been clamoring to see for weeks: Starling Marte.

And Marte is about to get his first look at the unique territory he has been portrayed as being born to play: PNC Park's vast left field, with that deep North Side Notch.

It may seem like a long time ago since Marte debuted with that thrilling first-pitch home run in Houston, and he may already be a 10-game Major League "veteran." But he will be making his first home appearance on Monday night, when the Bucs kick off an 11-game PNC Park stand with the first of four against Arizona.

Conditions could be favorable for the right-handed-hitting Marte's home unveiling: The D-backs will be throwing three left-handers in the four games at the Pirates; both of Marte's home runs have come off lefties.

With Wade Miley and Patrick Corbin going in the first two games and Joe Saunders on tap for Thursday, Pittsburgh fans will also get an extended introduction to Gaby Sanchez, the first baseman acquired from Miami cast in a platoon situation at first with Garrett Jones.

Three other players acquired since the club's last home game on July 25 will be making their debuts in white uniforms: Outfielder Travis Snider, reliever Chad Qualls and left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, set to make his first home start in Thursday's finale with Arizona.

Worth noting

• If you like fun with numbers, you'll love this: Saturday night's loss was the Pirates' 12th game of the season with a 5-4 final; they are 7-5 in those games. Furthermore, they have had 19 other games in which one side scored five runs, meaning a "5" has appeared in Pittsburgh's final linescore in 29 percent (31 of 106) of the games.

• Entering the final game of the Pirates' longest road trip of the season, Joel Hanrahan hadn't had a save opportunity since Day 2 of the trip, on July 27 in Houston. Yet his 31 saves are still tied for the National League lead (with Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel), one behind Major League leader Fernando Rodney of Tampa Bay.

• Pedro Alvarez got Sunday off, despite his strong numbers in afternoon games: 14 homers (of his total of 21) in 107 at-bats. Manager Clint Hurdle went with an even hotter hand at third base: Josh Harrison, 5-for-11 on the trip and 9-for-22 (.409) across a longer stretch.

Last word

"You have to pitch inside. In as hitter-friendly a park as there is in the big leagues? With the win blowing out, how can you not? You gotta pitch inside -- unless you can hit a gnat on the backside with your fastball."
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on how umpires' bench warning against throwing in on hitters can inhibit pitchers at the Reds' Great American Ball Park.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.