Since becoming the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Clint Hurdle has stressed getting fans in Pittsburgh back into the tradition of watching winning baseball. In less than two years, we have seen the transformation take place as PNC Park has become a packed house night in, night out. The popularity is obviously due to the team's success, something Hurdle has challenged his team to become by changing the general mindset of what it means to be a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Now, with the team 15 games over .500 heading into the final two months of the season, it is time to bring back another tradition in Pittsburgh: loathing the Cincinnati Reds.
In the 1970s the Pirates made the playoffs six times, winning two World Series titles. In four of those seasons, the Pirates faced the Reds and went 1-3 in the playoffs. Led by Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, and Pete Rose, The Big Red Machine was a thorn in the side of Pittsburgh. In fact, the only team more hated than the Reds, at this time, was the Phillies as they were constantly battling Pittsburgh for the NL East title while Cincinnati was in the NL West.
In 1990, the Reds defeated the Pirates in the playoffs again, taking the series in six games.
Since the two teams came into the NL Central in 1994, the rivalry has died down. The Pirates, as we all know, have been abysmal up until this year, and the Reds have only been slightly better. This season, it has been a completely different story as both teams are battling for the NL Central and if you didn't completely hate the Reds before, after last night's game, you probably will now.
With the Reds up 3-0 in the ninth inning with nobody on and two outs, Aroldis Chapman beaned Andrew McCutchen with a 101 mph fastball on the first pitch. McCutchen glared at Chapman as he jogged down to first and, after the game, looked to be extremely upset walking into the locker room. At the same time, Pirates bench coach, Jeff Banister, was seen giving a death stare into the Cincinnati dugout.
The decision to hit McCutchen likely came from Dusty Baker and it was done to make a point. The Reds are the favorite to win the division while the Pirates are still drawing a high amount of skepticism. With the game essentially in hand, Baker wanted to prove their team was better and he wanted Chapman to intimidate the Pirates by throwing at Andrew McCutchen.
How will the Pirates respond? We'll have to wait and see. The fans are obviously excited since PNC Park has already sold out their last three home games against the Reds in September. The Pirates have eight games left against the Reds this season and it may not be long before we see benches clear.
Welcome to the rivalry.