CINCINNATI — Reds rookie starter Keyvius Sampson pitched well in his first career start, the effort all but overshadowed by a benches-clearing scrum.
Sampson, making his second career appearance, allowed three runs and three hits with one walk and six strikeouts in five innings of the Cincinnati Reds' 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
The right-hander became the fifth Cincinnati pitcher — all rookies — to make his first career start this season.
Before a crowd of 39,596, Sampson (0-1) retired the first seven batters he faced before Sean Rodriguez doubled into the left field corner with one out in the third inning. One out later, Gregory Polanco walked, and both runners scored on Starling Marte's double to left-center, his first hit in his last eight at-bats.
"I pitched Thursday and that took some of the nervousness away," said Sampson, who had a dozen friends and relatives in the stands. "I was still nervous but I just told myself to keep the ball down."
Charlie Morton pitched five-hit ball for seven innings, Neil Walker hit a review-aided home run and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-0 Sunday in a testy game in which benches cleared after stars Andrew Mcutchen and Brandon Phillips were hit by pitches.
Pushing and shoving ensued in the eighth after the Reds' Phillips was hit by a pitch by Pittsburgh left-hander Tony Watson. Cincinnati's Pedro Villareal hit McCutchen in the top of the inning.
No punches were thrown between two teams with a history of altercations dating back a couple of years, but the altercation rekindled twice before order was restored. Pirates first baseman Sean Rodriguez was ejected.Cincinnati's Joey Votto and Marlon Byrd, who was hit by Joe Blanton Saturday night were ejected.
"I was upset last night," Byrd said. "I don't like balls coming at my head. I got hit. McCutchen got hit. I know he didn't like it. My teammate got hit and I was going out to support him."
Pirates Closer Mark Melancon and manager Clint Hurdle were automatically ejected after Melancon hit Tucker Barnhart with one out in the ninth. Newly acquired Joakim Soria got the final two outs for his first National League save.
"I've been here six years," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "A lot of ours guys get hit. A lot of their guys get hit. There is always something in the air. The constant is we both pitch inside. It speaks to the success of our pitching staffs. When you pitch inside guys are going to get hit. There is a lot of testosterone. It's just baseball."
Morton (7-4), 0-3 with a 5.04 ERA over his last five starts, improved to 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his last six in Cincinnati. The right-hander had a season-high seven strikeouts and didn't allow a runner past second base.
Walker extended the lead to 3-0 with a fourth-inning leadoff homer. Initially a triple, it was upgraded to a homer after a review of 1 minute, 25 seconds. Replays showed the ball bounced off a railing above the right-center field fence.
Pirates: All-Star RHP A.J. Burnett is scheduled to have an MRI on his ailing right elbow Monday. Burnett, who plans to retire after the season, said that there was "no chance" he would have season-ending surgery.
Reds: First baseman Joey Votto, who'd played in all but one of Cincinnati's first 102 games this season and started 99, got Sunday off. Votto, who'd started all 16 of the Reds' games since the All-Star break, struck out three times on Saturday for just the second time this season.
Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano (7-6) is Pittsburgh's scheduled starter against Cubs' LHP Jon Lester (6-8) in the opener of a three-game series and six-game home stand. The Pirates are 4-6 against Chicago this season.
Reds: After Monday's day off, Cincinnati opens a run of 13 games in 13 days with the first of a three-game series against Central-leading St. Louis. RHP Anthony DeSclafani (6-7) is the Reds' scheduled starter. He is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two appearances against the Cardinals.
Jay Bruce doubled in four at-bats but failed to drive in a run for the first time in seven games. During his six-game RBI streak Bruce drove in 11 runs.
Votto's ejection was his second of the season. He was tossed in the third inning on May 6, another 3-0 Pirates win. Votto has completed 94 of the 99 games started this season. His ejection on Sunday made him unavailable to pinch hit in the ninth inning when the pitcher's spot came up.
"I have no problem with guys going out to protect their teammates. At some point, the umpires have to take control," Bryan Price said.