This week's Reds-Cubs tilt in Chicago represents the first head-to-head matchup between the two teams since the late May weekend series in Cincinnati that provided fireworks for the Memorial Day weekend crowd.
While Monday evening's series opener passed without incident, the looming specter of Matt Garza's start on Tuesday evening hangs over the two franchises like the fog in Wrigley last night.
Cubs respond to Dusty's response to Garza's comments on Cueto. "Let's move on." http://t.co/No16cIs4Lw— Paul Sullivan (@PWSullivan) May 27, 2013
Three weeks ago, it was Garza's comments about how Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto should pitch inside to hitters that sparked the "he said, she said" tussle with Dusty Baker.
Reds manager Dusty Baker on Matt Garza and Johnny Cueto: 'Let them box' http://t.co/WQuGx1x4GB— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 27, 2013
Of course, that wasn't an isolated incident. In fact, the "Nasty Boys" toughness shown by the Reds during that series has seemed like a premeditated effort to impose their will on opponents this season.
While both teams came into this week stating that the incident is in the past, Dusty Baker couldn't help himself when the subject of Garza pitching on Tuesday was broached.
Dusty Baker puts onus on Matt Garza http://t.co/oTHXzs2Ma1— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) June 11, 2013
In other words, the Reds, who will throw rookie left-handed pitcher Tony Cingrani on Tuesday, won't restart the incident, but if Garza is still out to avenge his teammates by throwing at a Reds hitter, well, expect the fireworks to continue.
For all the logical reasons for each team to avoid an incident—fines, suspensions, potential injury—that hasn't stopped rivals from brawling before.
In fact, some of the most famous on-field incidents in recent memory have spawned in the same vein as the current Cubs-Reds predicament: Division rivals, bad blood and many opportunities to rekindle the fire.
From the classic Pedro Martinez versus Tampa Bay's entire roster to Tino Martinez-Armando Benitez to the more recent Cardinals-Reds pennant race feud, a common denominator of brawls over the last two decades emerges: Familiarity.
If the Cubs and Reds were replaced with, say, the Padres and Blue Jays, it's an easy bet to assume the incident would have been over last month because the two franchises wouldn't see each other more than once or twice per season.
In this case, the incident is still fresh and the rivalry has many games to go this season, but there could be an impetuous to finish this incident quickly from the perspective of Matt Garza.
As the summer goes on, it's likely that Chicago shops Garza to a contending team next month. After tonight, Chicago and Cincinnati only play two more games before the July 31 trade deadline, neither of which the Cubs right-hander is slated to take the mound.
In other words, it's might be now or never for closure.
Garza, while not a pitcher with impeccable command, especially during his youth, won't miss by accident tonight. Over his entire big league career, spanning nearly 1,050 innings, he's hit 36 batters. That's one HBP every 29 innings pitched.
Considering the circumstances around this faceoff, it's hard to believe a Garza pitch gets away from him by chance this evening.
Is the Cubs-Reds feud over?
From last month's near melee in Cincinnati to the concerted effort by this Reds group to strut their toughness to Garza's willingness to stand up for a teammate, there's a good chance we're not done with this story.
It doesn't seem like the Reds will arrive at Wrigley on Tuesday looking for a fight, but if Garza sends a message, the Commissioners Office will have a busy and troublesome week on their hands.