08/05/12 12:58 PM ET
PNC Park set to welcome Marte for home debut
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
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.
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.
"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.