Top 15 Most Memorable Pirates Moments of 2013

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For young fans like us, 2013 was the best season of Pirates baseball we have ever witnessed. It was what we’ve been waiting for our entire lives, with 94 wins and a playoff appearance. From April to Buctober and everywhere in between, many memories were made. Here are our top 15 Pirates moments of 2013…

15. AJ2K

A.J. Burnett enjoyed one of his best statistical seasons in 2013, especially in the strikeout department. He led the NL with a 9.8 K/9 and his 209 punchouts were the most for a right-handed pitcher in Pirates history.

On April 17th, A.J. joined elite company by notching the 2000th strikeout of his career when he caught Carlos Beltran looking in the second inning. It was a great night for the 36-year-old right-hander, as he pitched seven innings of one-hit ball and picked up his first W of the year.

Burnett currently sits in 55th place on the all-time strikeouts list with 2180 K. If he returns in 2014, he’ll have the chance to pass guys like Juan Marichal, Dwight Gooden, and Tommy John.

14. T. Sanchez’s Ridiculous Catch

Tony Sanchez finally cracked the big leagues in 2013. He was involved in some of the wackier plays of the year, like his first MLB hit that got stuck in the outfield wall at Angel Stadium. On September 19th in a 10-1 rout of the Padres, Sanchez made one of the Bucs’ finest defensive plays of the season by flipping into the visitors’ dugout and hanging onto the baseball.

tony sanchez catch

13. Pedro’s 3 HR weekend in LA

Pedro Alvarez made the NL All-Star team for the first time in 2013, and you have to think his breakout at the end of June had something to do with it.

El Toro went on an absolute tear between June 16th and June 29th by collecting knocks in 12 straight games, hitting .396/.431/.854 in that span. Alvarez dominated the Angels in LA during the weekend of June 21-23, going 6-for-12 with home runs in all three games.

The Big Bull led the way to a big sweep of the Angels, part of a nine-game winning streak for the Pirates.

12. Welcome to the Burgh, Mr. Byrd

On August 27th, the Bucs finally found a big bat to cure their problems in right field: Marlon Byrd. The 36-year-old outfielder made his Bucco debut a day later against Milwaukee at PNC Park.

In his second at-bat, Byrd battled Brewers’ starter Tom Gorzelanny for 14 pitches, ultimately resulting in a strikeout. For his effort, the crowd of 20,634 gave the Byrdman a standing ovation, which was an awesome moment.

Two at-bats later, Marlon crushed his 22nd home run of the year, a three-run blast into the center field bushes and celebrated with a curtain call when he returned to the dugout.

It was a great night for Pittsburgh baseball, as the team won, 7-1.

Byrd went on to hit .318/.357/.486 in 30 regular season games with the Pirates.

11. Jones Reaches the River

It took 13 seasons, but a Pirate finally landed a home run in the Allegheny River on the fly. On June 2nd, Garrett Jones crushed Jonathan Broxton‘s 92 mph offering into the water:

garrett jones allegheny river0001

10. The Comeback

The Reds were smacking the Pirates on Sunday, April 14th, as they jumped out to a 5-0 lead. In true “Battlin’ Buccos” fashion, the club fought back late in the game.

Starting with a Michael McKenry solo shot, the Bucs put up a four-spot in the seventh inning to come within a run. The Reds added insurance in the eighth to make it 6-4, but that wouldn’t stop the Pirates.

After Pedro Alvarez led off with a walk, The Fort did it again, hitting his second homer in as many innings and tying the ballgame. Jose Tabata drew a one-out walk, then Starling Marte crushed his first home run of the season to give the Bucs the lead.

They scored 10 runs between the seventh and eighth innings, pushing them to a huge sweep over the Reds. Check out this win expectancy graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Motto of the year: never say die.

9. The Walk-Off Error

Facing the Astros for the first time since their switch to the AL, the Bucs carved up yet another late inning comeback. They tied it in the eighth, then won it in the ninth… in dramatic fashion.

The Pirates drew the bases loaded in the final frame, so we were obviously on “Shrimp Alert” – looking for a walk-off walk. With two outs, Russell Martin battled to a full count. He chased Edgar Gonzalez‘s next offering – arguably ball four – and popped it into shallow right field. Extra innings? Not so fast. Only the Astros could pull this off:

One of the more bizarre endings you’ll ever see. A win is a win, and the Buccos took this one, 5-4.

8. Back-to-Back-to-Back

Not every day do you get to see three straight homers… the Pirates accomplished the feat on September 13th against the Cubs.

Pedro Alvarez started with a thrilling inside-the-parker, then Russell Martin cranked one out to the bleachers, and Garrett Jones finished it off with a blast to center. Exciting stuff:

7. The Doubleheader

A four-game date with the Cardinals had been circled on the calendar for quite some time. When a rainy mid-April game was postponed to July, that crucial series became a five-games-in-four-days showdown.

Francisco Liriano and the Bucs crushed the Cards in the opener, setting the stage for the big doubleheader on July 30th.

Game one was an intense matchup between A.J. Burnett and Lance Lynn, ultimately turning into a bullpen grudge match. Neither side would give way, with both pitching staffs keeping the scoreboard clean from the fourth inning on. Finally, in the bottom of the eleventh, the Bucs got to Kevin Siegrist (more on him in a bit) – two walks and an Alex Presley single later, they beat the Cards, 2-1, and reclaimed first place in the NL Central.

In the second game, rookie Brandon Cumpton twirled a gem (0 runs, 3 hits, 7.0 IP), the bats heated up for six runs on 11 hits, and the crowd at PNC had some serious fun. When Matt Holliday deflected Andrew McCutchen‘s fly ball into the stands for a homer, the Left Field Loonies got in his face…

…and serenaded him with “HOLL-IDAY, HOLL-IDAY” chants, foreshadowing the epic cheers that would take place two months later.

Great DH sweep for the Bucs, as they improved to 64-42 on the season. They took four of five from the Cards that series, putting themselves in a nice spot for the stretch run. What a great time this was to be a Bucco fan.

6. J-Hay’s Walk-Off Homer

One week after the doubleheader, the Pirates welcomed the Miami Marlins to PNC. In the series opener, Jeff Locke and the Bucs fell into a 3-0 hole early in the game. Naturally, they fought back and tied the game up before the Marlins could settle in. The Bucs blew a bases loaded/no outs opportunity in the bottom of the eighth, but they were ready to hoist the colours by the ninth.

With Garrett Jones leading off, Miami put southpaw Mike Dunn on the bump – so Clint Hurdle pinch-hit Josh Harrison. And J-Hay was ready to go home:

Sometimes, you never know who will be the hero.

5. Gerrit Cole‘s Debut

On June 6th, 2011, the Pirates drafted him. Two months later, they signed him. Two years later, they called him up.

The much-anticipated debut of young stud Gerrit Cole took place on June 11th, 2013 at PNC Park. He certainly didn’t disappoint – the guy did it all.

Pitching? Obviously: 6.1 strong innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, picking up his first career W.

Hitting? Seriously: in his first at-bat in years, Cole knocked a two-RBI single.

Entertainment? Naturally: he flashed the Zoltan after his first hit, and received a well-deserved standing ovation when his night was done.

Good night for Cole, good night for the Pirates, good night for Pittsburgh. He has arrived.

4. “Right now, Pedro owns Pittsburgh”

The postseason was absolutely unreal. Seeing three playoff games at PNC Park was unforgettable… Game 3 of the NLDS was memorable for sure.

To put it simply: it was a great baseball game. Back and forth, ups and downs, exactly what you’d expect from intense October baseball.

Byrd helped the Bucs jump out to a 2-0 lead; the Cards bounced back to make it 2-2. The Pirates went ahead 3-2 in the sixth, turning it over to the Shark Tank. Unfortunately, Mark Melancon surrendered a solo homer to Carlos Beltran in the eighth to even things up.

But in the home-half, Pittsburgh was ready to explode. Cutch led off with a double, but canceled it out with a baserunning blunder on Justin Morneau‘s fielder’s choice. Byrd had a great plate appearance against Carlos Martinez, drawing a walk on eight pitches. With two aboard and one out, the team’s hottest hitter stepped to the plate: Pedro Alvarez.

St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny countered with lefty Kevin Siegrist (yep, same guy they beat in the doubleheader) but nothing was stopping The Big Bull. Alvarez shot a grounder through the right side, scoring pinch-runner Josh Harrison to give the Bucs a 4-3 lead. Steve Blass belted out on the radio side, “right now, Pedro owns Pittsburgh” as the PNC Blackout went nuts. Even team president Frank Coonelly was pumped:

frank coonelly celebrating

El Toro helped the Bucs to a huge win, giving them a 2-1 series lead. At that moment, I really thought the Pirates had it. I really thought they were going to the NLCS. It’s a shame they couldn’t finish off the Redbirds.

3. The Streak is Over

On September 3rd, the Pirates beat the Brewers in a thrilling 4-3 game at Miller Park for the team’s 81st victory of 2013. That clinched a non-losing season, but we wanted one more W to officially have a “winning season.”

How fitting would it be to clinch in Miller Park, the House of Horrors? Welp, the Bucs lost the next night, 9-3. How about at Busch Stadium that weekend? Nope, swept. Bucco Nation was starting to get anxious. We’d waited so long for this, and now it was just dragging out.

Next, the Bucs were headed to Arlington, Texas to face the American League powerhouse Rangers and their stud pitcher, Yu Darvish.

But the Pirates went with their own young stud, Gerrit Cole, and played one of their most intense games of the year. Cole 45 dominated for seven innings, Pedro and Byrd hit back-to-back doubles to put a run on the board, and the Shark Tank did their thing to seal the deal. It was a 1-0 victory, number 82, a winning season. Cutch says it all:

andrew mccutchen pirates 82nd win

2. The Pirates are going to the playoffs – September 23rd

There were so many incredible moments from this night.

Charlie Morton was electric, shutting down the Cubs for no runs over seven innings. Neil Walker‘s solo homer in the first held up as the only run until the eighth, when Melancon allowed Chicago to tie the game.

But it was time for a Marte Partay at Wrigley in the ninth, as Starling crushed a two-out solo bomb into the left field bleachers for a 2-1 lead.

Just as we’re ready to celebrate a W, Jason Grilli gets into a bit of trouble. Ryan Sweeney lifted a soft two-out single into right field, and with Nate Schierholtz chugging around the bases, what happened next was… well… just watch the GIF:

justin morneau

A ridiculous ending to a great game.

With the win, the Pirates’ magic number rested at one. A Nationals’ loss would put the Bucs in the postseason for the first time since 1992, and that’s exactly what happened just moments after the final out was recorded at Wrigley. The players sprayed each other with champagne, Travis Snider started singing Don’t Stop Believing, Clint Hurdle was screaming “AbsoBUCNlutely” … it was the happiest I had ever seen a Pirate team:

pirates celebration

Unforgettable night.


Wow. I’m not sure if words can describe what happened on Tuesday, October 1st at 115 Federal Street.

Marlon Byrd cranked a solo bomb into the bleachers to get on the board, a fitting start to the postseason. The crowd was ready to have some fun, and when Pedro Alvarez lined out solidly to Shin-Soo Choo, we had Johnny Cueto right where we wanted him.


And then he dropped the ball.


And then he offered up a meatball to Russell Martin that was just begging to be crushed. 2-0 Pittsburgh. And there was no looking back.

Absolutely incredible. Could a better script have been written for this night? Everything went right, and a 6-2 victory sent the Pirates to the NLDS.

What a year. Winning season, 94 wins, playoff run. Here’s to starting a new streak – a winning one.

Thank you to everyone who made 2013 so memorable. Can’t wait for next season.

Go Bucs

Bucs Bits: Pirates News & Notes 12/8/13

All has been quiet in Bucco land, but expect that to change this week: the annual MLB Winter Meetings start up on Monday and last through Thursday. Some news and notes to get started…

Jonathan Mayo, Rob Biertempfel, and others have written primers to get you ready for the Meetings. As we wrote the other day, a first baseman, starting pitcher, and depth player(s) should be on the team’s wish list this week. Right field could be upgraded as well, but with a bunch of guys already competing for a job (Jose Tabata, Travis Snider, Jaff Decker, Andrew Lambo) and top prospect Gregory Polanco on the way, the Bucs may stay in-house at that position. I think Neal Huntington should/will most actively pursue a first baseman this week; a few names to look out for on that front: James Loney, Mark Trumbo, Mitch Moreland, Adam Lind, Logan Morrison.

– A few of those in-house right field options are getting some winter ball work in right now. Polanco is still tearing it up in the Dominican (.320/.424/.500 through 33 games), though he’s currently dealing with the stomach flu. Lambo is hitting just .175 in Venezuela, but it’s interesting to see him playing first base in addition to right field.

Clint Hurdle told 93.7 The Fan on Friday “there’s still a chance” that A.J. Burnett will re-sign with Pittsburgh.

– A few former Bucs signed with new teams the last couple days. Garrett Jones is going to Miami; Nate McLouth got a nice two-year contract with the Nationals; Chad Qualls picked up a lot of cash from Houston; Jose Contreras signed a minor league deal with Texas. I’ll compile a full list of former Pirates’ new homes later in the winter.

– Grantland’s Jonah Keri broke down the best trade values in baseball. Two Buccos cracked the list: Gerrit Cole at #26 and Andrew McCutchen at #2.

[quote_simple]”McCutchen leapfrogs Harper this year, because when you’re a 27-year-old player with no weaknesses who’s coming off your first MVP award and you’re under team control for the next half-decade for basicallythe Darren Dreifort contract, you’ve earned that promotion. And more improvement could be on the way.”[/quote_simple]

Cutch ranks behind only Mike Trout on the list. Pretty nice watching the second most valuable player in baseball, huh? And considering his contract versus what some of these players are getting on the open market, we should be really, really thankful.

– Dejan Kovacevic has a nice Sunday column about Mark Melancon‘s work promoting Major League Baseball in South Africa. Here’s the Bucs’ setup man and his wife with a cheetah down there:

mark melancon wife cheetah

– Reminder that PirateFest is coming up next weekend, Saturday & Sunday at the Convention Center. Be sure to get your tickets.

113 days until Opening Day.

Go Bucs

Top 5: Garrett Jones’ Most Memorable Moments as a Pirate

[quote_simple]”Goodbye: Garrett Jones. Perpetually the question, never the answer.” – Dejan Kovacevic[/quote_simple]

Garrett Jones was stuck in Rochester, home of the Twins’ Class AAA affiliate, from 2005 to 2008. He couldn’t crack the major leagues because a guy named Justin Morneau was playing every day at first base in Minnesota. Ironically, five years later, Jones found himself in the same spot: stuck behind Morneau and heading for a new home the next year.

It wasn’t an easy journey and the results weren’t always pretty, but Jones had a nice run with the Pirates. The man-child known as G.I. Jones and GFJ had some ups and downs in the Burgh, starting with an impressive .293/.372/.567 campaign in 2009 and ending with a disappointing .233/.289/.419 season in 2013.

From starting to platooning to benching and everywhere in between over the years, Jones has become one of the team’s most tenured players. He was here for some of the worst of times (105 losses in 2010) and some of the best (94 wins and a playoff run in 2013), with plenty of his own feats to show for it. Without further ado, here are five of his most memorable moments as a Pirate…

July 17th, 2009: Garrett Jones 2, San Francisco Giants 1

In just his 12th Major League game, Jones single-handedly took down the Giants. He knocked a home run in the first inning against Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, then crushed a titanic blast 13 innings later to win it.

garrett jones walkoff home run0002

Two solo shots got the job done to give the Bucs a 2-1 win.

July 28th, 2009: “The Play”

A little over one week later, the Pirates met the Giants in San Fran. Jones was involved in what is guaranteed to be one of the most bizarre plays you will ever see. Never the sharpest defensively or fleetest of foot, Jones had this ball bounce off his shin, roll down to his foot, and kick up to second baseman Delwyn Young:

garrett jones delwyn young play0002

April 5th, 2010: Opening Day 2010

After hitting .293 with a .938 OPS in 2009, Jones opened up the next season with a great day: 2-for-4 with two home runs, three RBI, and three runs scored.

G.I. Jones’ performance guided the Bucs to an 11-5 victory over the Dodgers.

June 2nd, 2013: Allegheny River Splashdown

This past season, Jones became the first Pirate to ever hit a home run into the Allegheny River on the fly:

August 22nd, 2013: McCovey Cove Splashdown

A few months later, Jones hit water on the fly yet again – this time in San Francisco’s McCovey Cove:

Designated for assignment last week and officially non-tendered on Monday, Jones’ days as a Pirate are over. He was well-liked and made some great memories here. Best of luck to him in the future.

jones scoreboard0001

Go Bucs

Pirates Roster Moves 11/25/13

Jaff Decker is the newest Bucco.

The Pirates have made some roster moves on this final Monday of November…

They acquired outfielder Jaff Decker and right-handed pitcher Miles Mikolas in exchange for 1B/OF Alex Dickerson.

– Decker’s name created some buzz last week when he was designated for assignment by the Padres. Good numbers in the minors, like his career .402 OBP and .858 OPS, made the 23-year-old outfielder an attractive option for some teams. The Pirates jumped at the opportunity, adding him to their collection of possible right fielders. Decker played just 13 games at the big league level in 2013, but he could break camp with the Bucs next spring.

– Mikolas, 25, is exactly what the Pirates have been looking for in pitchers (especially relievers) lately: a tall, hard-throwing right-hander who has the ability to generate groundballs. He’s made 27 career MLB appearances, posting a 3.44 ERA over 34 innings. In the minor leagues, Mikolas has been sharp with a 2.96 ERA, 7.6 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 over the last five seasons. It’s always good to have plenty of depth and Mikolas could be a nice arm in the bullpen.

– The Pirates gave up Alex Dickerson, a guy they drafted in the 3rd round in 2011. He did some nice things with the bat over the last few years, hitting .295 with an .827 OPS. They started him as a first baseman but he profiles more as a right fielder. With that in mind, it’d be tough for him to crack the depth chart over what the team currently has. They must feel Decker has more upside in the long term, thus shipping Dickerson off to San Diego.

To make room for Decker and Mikolas on the 40-man roster, the Pirates designated Garrett Jones and Kyle McPherson for assignment.

At this point, Jones is one of the team’s more tenured players. Despite his declining performance, he was due for another raise in arbitration this year, making him an easy non-tender candidate for next week’s deadline. Since that was coming anyway, G.I. Jones was an obvious choice to DFA.

McPherson showed some promise at the end of 2012, which made him a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation for 2013. Injuries slowed him down and he eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in July.

More to come.

Go Bucs

2013 in Review: Infield

Pittsburgh Pirates Infielders 2013 Pedro alvarez Neil walker

Final stats:

pittsburgh pirates infielder stats 2013

Garrett Jones enjoyed a nice 2012 campaign, hitting .274 with 27 HR and an .832 OPS. While his salary doubled to $4.5 million, his on-field production seriously fell off in 2013. Nearly all offensive categories took a turn for the worse, especially his slugging percentage which dropped nearly .100 points. In a platoon with Gaby Sanchez, Jones hit just .241 with a .730 OPS against right-handed pitching. He only got 23 plate appearances vs. LHP, but struggled as usual: .095/.174/.143. G.I. Jones looks at another pay raise in arbitration, making him a potential non-tender candidate within the next few weeks.

Gaby Sanchez, the other half of the first base platoon, was also imbalanced in his lefty-righty splits. He absolutely mashed against left-handers, hitting .333/.448/.539 in 102 at-bats. However, Gaby faced RHP in more than 60% of his plate appearances – he hit an unsatisfactory .204/.304/.315, thus dragging down his overall numbers. He received just 17 at-bats in September once Justin Morneau got on board.

Gaby  Sanchez GIF

Morneau was acquired on the day of the waiver trade deadline, August 31st, in exchange for Alex Presley and Duke Welker. The 32-year-old Canadian first baseman got on-base at a .370 clip, but provided no power (0 HR, 4 doubles). He went 7-for-24 in the postseason, collecting hits in five of the Bucs’ six October games. Morneau certainly wasn’t great, but not terrible for a month-long rental. The chances of Morneau returning to Pittsburgh are slim-to-none, though he’s wishing to play for a contender and the Pirates are looking to pursue a free agent first baseman. If nothing works out for either side elsewhere, then there’s a small chance the Bucs and Morneau could work something out.

Between the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, Neil Walker dealt with some injury problems that may have limited his production. His strongest stretch of the year came after returning from the DL in late July, as he hit .312 with an .835 OPS over his next 25 games. Unfortunately, The Pittsburgh Kid hit just .220 the rest of the way and laid a giant egg in the playoffs, going 0-for-19 in the NLDS. The switch-hitting Walker still struggles from the right-side of the plate, both average-wise and power-wise – 43 of his 44 extra-base hits this year came from the left-side. The fan police was out in full force this summer on Walker’s case, saying fans shouldn’t give him preferential treatment just because he’s from Pittsburgh. As a Walker fan, I think that’s ridiculous. Regardless of whether you love him or hate him, you have to take him for what he is: a very streaky hitter who can play decent defense at second base. He’s not expensive (yet) and certainly better than what the Pirates have had at 2B in the past. I’m not sure the right-handed hitting will ever figure itself out, but I think Neil can boost his batting average if he stays healthy. His .274 BABIP (lowest of his career) suggests that balls just weren’t falling in last year. Walker’s consistently put up an OBP of around .340, so I think a return to the .270-.280 batting average range is possible.

via RumBunter

With two consecutive 30+ home run years, Pedro Alvarez has turned a lot of doubters into believers. In 2011, El Toro heard boos and was demoted to Triple-A for his poor performance. In 2013, he’s serenaded with “LET’S GO PEDRO” chants as he steps to the plate in the postseason. Quite the turn of events in just a two-year span. Anyway, the Big Bull led the National League in strikeouts, but he also led the league in home runs. That’s a trade-off you’re willing to take when he’s crushing 36 bombs a year. He’s a streaky hitter, just like Neil Walker. While Walker burned out in October against the Cardinals, Pedro was on fire – he hit .353/.421/.941 with 3 HR, collecting a hit in each of the five NLDS contests and becoming the first player to record an RBI in each of his first six postseason games. This offseason, Alvarez can void his $700K option and go to arbitration. This will give him a nice salary increase for sure, and there’s more on the way. A Scott Boras client, Pedro will be looking for lots of $$ if the Pirates try to sign him to an extension.

In year two of a two-year deal, Clint Barmes was as advertised once again: poor offense, solid defense. The 34-year-old shortstop essentially lost his job to Jordy Mercer in mid-June, but still saw playing time the rest of the way. He’s a free agent this winter, but the Pirates could potentially bring him back in a bench role to split time with Mercer.

As I stated, Mercer took over the reigns at SS around midseason. Jordy is the opposite of Barmes: he can hit pretty well, but the defense isn’t as sharp. He finished the year with a .285 average and .772 OPS, though he particularly crushed left-handed hitting: .410/.460/.692 in 89 plate appearances. Depending on what they do this offseason, we’ll have a pretty good idea of the club’s view on Mercer by spring training. If they go hard after a Stephen Drew or Jhonny Peralta type, then they probably don’t have much faith in his future. If they settle for a Clint Barmes or another Brandon Inge/John McDonald type to back him up, then they’re set to roll with Jordy in 2014.

Utility man Josh Harrison played second, third, and shortstop in 2013, though his season highlights came elsewhere: 1) hitting a walk-off home run against the Marlins on August 6th and 2) pitching (yes, pitching) against the Rockies on August 10th.

Others that saw time in the infield this year: Brandon Inge and John McDonald… Not much to say. John McDonald got himself a World Series ring though, so who’s laughing now?

2013 in Review: Previous Editions
Starting Pitching

Go Bucs