On Sunday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds once again got into it as their never-ending beanball war continued.
The Pirates and the Reds have been throwing at each other the past few seasons, and it finally came to a head this weekend.
On Saturday night, Cincinnati left fielder Marlon Byrd narrowly avoided getting hit in the head by a pitch up and in from Pittsburgh right-hander Joe Blanton. Byrd lifted his left shoulder in time to protect his head, but he was unable to avoid getting hit by the pitch.
That beaning seemed to trigger what transpired on Sunday.
In the top of the eighth inning, Reds right-hander Pedro Villarreal hit Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen square in the back with a 91 mph pitch. Taking exception to that, Pittsburgh left-hander Tony Watson responded by drilling Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips with a 94 mph heater.
Both benches and bullpens immediately emptied, with jawing and shoving ensuing. Phillips and Byrd had to be restrained from going after the Pirates, while Sean Rodriguez was the player most involved on the Pittsburgh side.
No punches were thrown in the scuffle, but there were some ejections. Rodriguez, Byrd and Cincinnati's Joey Votto were tossed as a result of the benches-clearing incident. Home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn also issued warnings to both teams.
The top of the ninth inning went without a Pirate getting hit, but Pittsburgh's Mark Melancon was thrown out of the game for drilling Cincinnati catcher Tucker Barnhart in the bottom of the ninth.
It's unlikely that Melancon was trying to hit Barnhart, as doing so brought the tying run to the plate. However, with tensions high and warnings issued, the closer was tossed.
After the Pirates' 3-0 victory, McCutchen addressed the teams' apparent disdain for one another, per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Fun fact: Cincinnati holds a 9-4 lead in the season series.
As the Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans noted, these two clubs have quite a history together:
Pittsburgh has led the majors in hit batsmen in each of the past two seasons and is leading the league again this year, hitting 213 batters in two-plus years:
As a result, the Pirates (59 in 2015) find themselves being hit more than any other team.
The two teams will meet back in Cincinnati from Sept. 7-9 and again in Pittsburgh for the final three games of the season.