Tonight, Hunter Greene takes the mound for the Cincinnati Reds as they take on Ke’Bryan Hayes and the Pittsburgh Pirates. While other teams around the league continue to battle for playoff positions, this matchup gives us an opportunity to watch two young studs who are looking to pull these former baseball powerhouses out of the MLB basement.
Both teams have had a few playoff appearances scattered across the past 15 years, but during the 1970s, this matchup was must-see TV. Over the course of that decade, the Reds and Pirates met in the NLCS four times. Hall-of-Fame MLBbro Joe Morgan and the legendary Big Red Machine would get the best of that matchup, taking three of those four NL pennants.
Morgan, who to many is the greatest second basemen of all-time, wasn’t the only OG MLBbro to call Cincy home in that era. Their outfield was composed of Ken Griffey Sr. and George Foster, with guys like outfielder Bobby Tolan and pitcher Tom Hall also helping to assist the Machine in their dominant decade.
As for those 70’s Pittsburgh Pirates, that team embodies the phrase “Soul Power” more than any other franchise in MLB history. Anchored by the late, great Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, the Pirates made history by fielding the first all Black/Latino lineup in MLB history, something that has yet to be duplicated.
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Dock Ellis was on the bump (no pun intended), with Willie Stargell, Dave Cash, Gene Clines, Rennie Sennett and Al Oliver all backing him up. The Pirates would eventually win a 10-7 slugfest against their Pennsylvania neighbors, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Although the Big Red Machine may have the catchier nickname and get mentioned more than the Pirates of the 70’s, both teams won two World Series championships during the decade. The Pirates went 2-0, winning in 1971 and 1979. The Reds would end up 2-2, losing in 1970 and ’72 before going back to back in 1975 and ’76.
Both teams went through tough times in the 80’s, with neither squad making the playoffs once. But in 1990, with each team once again being led by superstar MLBbros, the Reds and Pirates met in the National League Championship Series.
The Pirates were led by Barry Bonds and a supporting cast that included Bobby Bonilla and Lloyd McClendon, while the Reds had two young guns by the name of Eric Davis and eventual Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. The Reds went on to beat Pittsburg 4-2 before sweeping the Oakland Athletics in the World Series.
Unfortunately for both cities, things took a turn for the worst after 1990. The Reds would add names like Deion Sanders and even hometown legend Ken Griffey Jr, but Cincinnati has only made the playoffs five times since that World Series victory.
In Pittsburg, Barry Bonds left for The Bay and nothing was the same. There have been some flashes of life, especially when Andrew McCutchen was manning centerfield. But just like Cincy the Pirates have managed to make the playoffs just five times since their NLCS match.
Fast forward to today, and both franchises are looking for pieces that can propel them to the heights they once reached. Hunter Greene has the potential to be an ace for the Reds, while Ke’Bryan Hayes has already received a contract extension to man the hot corner in Pittsburgh.
If these two teams are to return to glory, Greene and Hayes will be key pieces in the process.