With that in mind, Pirates second baseman Neil Walker could not help but wonder Tuesday whether Reds closer Aroldis Chapman has been doing some headhunting. On Monday night, Chapman sent a 2-2 fastball sailing at Walker's head, and Walker barely got out of the way before landing on his back.
"You try to give players the benefit of the doubt," Walker said. "You would hope guys know what they're doing out there. But given the history between these two teams, especially most recently, sometimes you question it."
Tensions have been high between the Pirates and Reds for the past two seasons.
The Pirates felt Chapman intentionally hit star center fielder Andrew McCutchen last August. In September, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips accused the Pirates' Jared Hughes of using a racial slur, which the reliever vehemently denied.
On June 1, Pirates left-handed reliever Tony Watson hit Phillips in the left forearm with a pitch. That caused Phillips to miss four games.
The Reds' Mat Latos hit Walker with a pitch the next day and it seemed the end of that matter. At least until Chapman buzzed Walker on Tuesday.
"If that's the route that we're going to go down of giving into 'If you hit our guy, we're going to hit yours,' then that's the way it's going to be. But, by no means, balls should not be anywhere near anybody's head," Walker said. "I was hit by Latos last time at our place. I was fine with it because he hit me right in the butt. We moved on. Whether last night was any part of that, I don't know. It's tough to get me, in particular, fired up about things, but when you see a 100 mph fastball come pretty close to your face, you've got to wonder a little bit."
Pirates starter Charlie Morton hit Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo with the his first pitch Tuesday night and later hit left fielder Xavier Paul. However, the Reds did not retaliate in the Pirates' 4-0 victory.
Pirates pitchers lead the major leagues with 39 hit batters, but manager Clint Hurdle said that is because he and pitching coach Ray Searage have stressed the importance of pitching inside since the beginning of spring training. However, Hurdle wouldn't deny that his pitchers are protective of their hitters.
"I think our pitchers have that mentality sometimes," Hurdle said. "They want to defend their players; they want to defend their teammates. It's not so much about retaliation. It's not so much about being proactive. But there's definitely a point in the game where I think you want to be professionally reactive."
NEXT: Pirates (Jeff Locke, 6-1, 2.19) at Reds (Bronson Arroyo, 6-5, 3.27).
LHP Wandy Rodriguez is expected to throw a bullpen session Thursday, and if all goes well he'll begin a rehab stint Sunday. Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list since June 11 (retroactive to June 6) with left forearm tightness, went 6-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 12 starts prior to the injury.
RHP Bryan Morris allowed solo homers by Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, both left-handed batters, in the eighth inning Monday as Cincinnati broke open a close game and won 4-1. Morris had allowed two homers in his previous 12 innings and none to left-handers. "That really hasn't been a problem with him this season," manager Clint Hurdle said. Morris has shown some durability, throwing more than one inning in 10 of 19 appearances.
RHP Charlie Morton continued his dominance at Great American Ball Park, allowing just three hits in 5 1/3 innings. Morton, who has given up just one run in this past three starts in Cincinnati, didn't allow a hit Tuesday until Joey Votto's single with two outs in the fourth. It was Morton's second start since coming off the disabled list, and he had good command of all his pitches.
RHP Jeanmar Gomez was scheduled to make his second rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday night, but the game was postponed due to rain. Gomez, on the disabled list since June 3 with a right forearm strain and inflammation, was to throw 65-70 pitches over five innings.
RHP Jeff Locke has won each of his past six decisions, including a victory over Cincinnati in which he allowed one run in five innings in a 3-1 victory. The only run he allowed was a solo home run by Zack Cozart. Locke's six-game winning streak is the longest by a Pirates left-hander since Zach Duke won six straight in 2005. Locke is 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA in seven road starts.
"I think our pitchers have that mentality sometimes. They want to defend their players; they want to defend their teammates. It's not so much about retaliation. It's not so much about being proactive. But there's definitely a point in the game where I think you want to be professionally reactive."—Manager Clint Hurdle, on pitchers throwing at opposing hitters.
RHP A.J. Burnett (right calf strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 9. He is wearing a walking boot after saying June 14 that he has a Grade I tear in his right calf and suffered the injury June 12 while doing his usual running program between starts.
LHP Wandy Rodriguez (left forearm tightness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 6. He started playing catch June 13 and threw off a mound June 18. He is expected to throw a bullpen session June 20.
RHP Jared Hughes (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 6. An MRI found no structural damage in the shoulder and he has not yet starting a throwing program.
RHP Jeanmar Gomez (strained right forearm) went on the 15-day disabled list June 3. He began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on June 13.
RHP James McDonald (right shoulder discomfort) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 1. He made rehab starts for Double-A Altoona on May 27 and June 1, then started June 6, June 11 and June 16 for Triple-A Indianapolis. He is expected to make two more starts for Indianapolis before his rehab assignment expires June 26.
RHP Jeff Karstens (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 27. Karstens underwent surgery June 7 to debride his shoulder, and he won't be able to begin a throwing program until mid-September, which makes a return this season almost out of the question.
OF Jose Tabata (left oblique strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 25. He started hitting off a tee June 14 and is tentatively scheduled to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment June 21.
RHP Phil Irwin (nerve inflammation near right elbow) was recalled from the minors and placed on the 60-day disabled list June 3. He has not yet started a throwing program.
LHP Jeff Locke
LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Charlie Morton
RHP Gerrit Cole
RHP Brandon Cumpton
RHP Jason Grilli (closer)
RHP Mark Melancon
LHP Tony Watson
LHP Justin Wilson
RHP Vin Mazzaro
RHP Bryan Morris
RHP Ryan Reid
1B Garrett Jones
2B Neil Walker
SS Clint Barmes
3B Pedro Alvarez
INF Brandon Inge
INF Gaby Sanchez
INF Jordy Mercer
LF Starling Marte
CF Andrew McCutchen
RF Travis Snider
OF Alex Presley