The last time the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates met, July 29-31 in Cincinnati, tempers flared in a series that was not against two of the better teams in the National League, yet still managed to draw attention.
Heading into a weekend series at Pittsburgh, the Reds and Pirates have dealt with suspensions to both managers, as well as three players on each club as a result of a benches-clearing brawl, the crux of which seemed to come from Cincinnati suspecting Pittsburgh pitchers were throwing at batters.
The teams managed to get through the third game of that series, a day after the brawl, with no further incident, but the damage was done.
"I came to the field eight days and I was useless," Reds reliever Amir Garrett said earlier this week when he finished serving an eight-game suspension that was delayed by an appeal. Garrett initiated the brawl when he rushed toward the Pittsburgh dugout.
"It's very tough to watch my team compete without me," Garrett said. "I love being here. I love being around these guys. I love going to battle with them every single day."
Pittsburgh reliever Kyle Crick served the final game of his three-game suspension Thursday, so all punishments will have been served when the series opens.
Since that series between the clubs, the Reds are 10-10, while the Pirates have gone 5-14 and are reeling at 8-30 since the All-Star break.
Cincinnati won two of three against San Diego this week and had Thursday off. Pittsburgh lost three of four against Washington, including a 7-1 loss Thursday that gave the Nationals a 32-6 scoring edge in the series.
If tempers don't get in the way, perhaps the Reds will be a panacea for the Pirates, who have won seven straight games against Cincinnati in Pittsburgh.
Keller will be making his sixth major league start for a Pirates team that has been plagued with injuries to starters. His results have been mixed.
Keller got his first career win Aug. 12 when he gave up two runs, one of them earned, in five innings at Anaheim. Then came Sunday in the MLB Little League Classic, when he gave up six runs in 4 1/3 innings in a 7-1 loss to the Cubs.
"I'm not happy, by any means. Yeah, frustrated," Keller said of that outing. "It's just back to work. Gotta have that mindset."
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle, with the advantage of experience, was more generous in his assessment.
"I thought he showed some of the things we were looking to see and we want to continue to see," Hurdle said. "And I think he's shown some opportunities for growth, some finishing of pitches we've got to work on."
Keller's major league debut came against Cincinnati on May 27 and was something of an adventure. He gave up six runs and seven hits in the first inning of an 8-1 loss but then allowed just one baserunner over the next three innings and finished with seven strikeouts.
DeSclafani has alternated wins and losses his past six starts.
Saturday against St. Louis, he gave up one run -- a homer to Matt Carpenter -- and five hits in five innings to pick up a win.
In 11 career starts against Pittsburgh, DeSclafani is 2-6 with a 4.55 ERA.
--Field Level Media