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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.

1. CUEEE-TO, CUEEE-TO

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.

CUEEE-TO, CUEEE-TO

And then he dropped the ball.

CUEEE-TO, CUEEE-TO

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

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