The Reds and Pirates will do this four more times between now and the close of baseball business next Sunday, with each succeeding episode likely to absorb even more urgency, with each appointment dripping with potential to produce in your memory something truly indelible.
That they still appear headed for that one and only -- and only one -- additional smackdown known as the National League wild-card playoff is a matter of reasonable conjecture, but the business of what exactly people will remember about the Reds and Pirates in 2013 certainly has a far greater range of possibilities.
Look at all the little things that became very big things Saturday night, for example, right there in the middle of the Pirates' 89th victory of a still very promising season, the one that nudged the Reds back into third place, right where they had spent the 90 days prior to Friday night's extra-inning victory.
The little matter of Homer Bailey, always so very comfortable at PNC Park, where he not only pitched a no-hitter exactly 51 weeks prior to Saturday night, where he was 5-0 with a 1.48 career ERA, unfurling a wild pitch on a pick-off attempt in the sixth inning.
That error sent Andrew McCutchen screeching into third with the potential go-ahead run.
The little matter of Justin Morneau tagging at first base on Marlon Byrd's sacrifice fly and moving to second with two outs.
And the little matter of Dusty Baker bringing on Zach Duke to face Pedro Alvarez. Didn't Baker know that Duke rarely got a tough out with a big pitch at PNC Park in his six years working here?
Duke went to 3-2 on Alvarez, but the Pirates third baseman mentally set aside his .175 average against left-handed pitching and lashed a single to left that erected the final arithmetic, a 4-2 Pirates victory that extended a season of delicious baseball between these two teams. The Pirates now lead the season series, 8-7.
"It felt great to be able to do that, but if it wasn't me, it would have been someone else," said catcher Russell Martin, who not only guided four Pirates pitchers through nine tense innings but banged a two-run home run that wiped out an early 2-0 Cincinnati lead. "We've been doing it all year and tonight we did what was necessary, played good defense and took advantage of a couple of mistakes."
Very likely the most avid students of these teams will continue to talk long and hard and loud about the inexact politics of inside pitches, especially those that sailed far enough inside to cause swelling, discoloration and managerial indignation.
Pirates hitters got plunked this season on pretty much an every-other-game basis, 51 percent of the games, except when the opponent was the Reds, in which case the figure was 86 percent.
Asked about bad blood before Saturday night's game, Baker wasn't giving an inch, as ever.
"I see by the stats that the Pirates and Cardinals have hit each other more [than the Pirates and Reds]; is there bad blood there, too?" Baker said. "There's kind of a common denominator here, don't you think? I ain't that smart or nothin' but it looks like it."
But it wasn't Sam LeCure drilling McCutchen Friday or Charlie Morton nailing Shin-Soo Choo in June or Mike Leake hitting McCutchen earlier in that series that I'm going to be thinking about when the fate of these teams is finally decided, well down the road from Saturday night's throbbing 4-2 Pirates victory.
The turning points are much less theatric, for me, which is why I won't soon dismiss a mere grounder to the left side by Devin Mesoraco the other night.
The more crucial these entanglements become, the more it seems they are decided on little things.
It was Mesoraco, who not so long ago was going to the plate for Punxsutawney High, who built the at-bat in that ninth inning that made the infamous Jordy Mercer error sting, that may ultimately have restructured the Pirates bullpen for the balance of the season, and that had other likely import still unrealized.
"He was trying to get me out on that cutter, like he always throws me," Mesoraco was saying some 20 hours later of Mark Melancon, who threw him three of 'em to get within a strike of winning that game, then put four more pitches, three of them off-speed, in the same down-and-away spot and watched Mesoraco foul off every last one. "I was just hoping he'd get one more toward the middle of the plate."
That's when Melancon changed locations. Started the cutter well inside, but it floated over the plate, where Mesoraco spanked it to the left of Alvarez at third. Alvarez got a glove on it, but as it pin-balled toward short, two Reds scored to the tie score, sending it to a place where the Pirates couldn't save it.
Both managers, one a former hitting coach and one a very tough out in his Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers glory days, probably appreciated that at-bat as much as anything that has happened in this series to this point..
"I'm watchin' that sequence and [Melancon] is trying to pitch outside and this guy [Mesoraco], he just keeps foulin' em off and foulin' em off," Clint Hurdle said. "Just a case where that guy is puttin' his spikes into the ground and doin' the best he can. We decided to go inside on him, but he's up there swingin', battlin' and he gets enough of his bat on the ball to put it in play.
"A very, very gritty at-bat."
Baker seemed even more mesmerized by it.
"That was a great battle that Mesoraco won," he said. "Sometimes you have to give these hitters some credit. He's got every disadvantage. The other man is standing on a hill. Every cowboy movie I ever saw, every war movie, somebody is trying to take the hill and there are all kinds of things going against them."
That the Pirates came back to win the great battle one night later says that even this close to the end, we're still a long way from a surrender by either side.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org.