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.