Now that the dust has settled, let’s pick out our favorite wins from 2018.
It was a roller coaster of a season for the Pirates this year. While their 82-79 final record seems only a step up from pedestrian, this team was far more interesting than that. They were rarely good for too long or bad for too long, but they were seldom boring.
Every year I come up with lists of the 10 best wins and losses of that season. Since the Pirates finished with more wins than losses, we’ll start with the optimistic offering. You get to pick what was the best win of the year, so be sure to vote at the end. If I forgot one, please yell at me in the comments.
Mar. 30: Pirates 13, Tigers 10- Opening Day Madness
Opening Day was easily the craziest game of the season for the Pirates. After a four run top of the ninth, they went into the home half of the frame with what appeared to be a comfortable 10-6 edge. Surprisingly, an uncharacteristically poor outing from Felipe Vazquez (or Rivero at the time) let the Tigers force extras.
The Tigers appeared to have won the game in the 10th on a walk-off single, but a successful challenge by Clint Hurdle showed that Corey Dickerson and Francisco Cervelli nabbed Nicholas Castellanos at the plate just before he touched home. In the 13th, Gregory Polanco pounced on a 3-0 pitch for a game-winning three run tater.
Apr. 8: Pirates 5, Reds 0- Taillon’s One-Hitter
This was as dominating a pitching performance we saw across baseball this year. Taillon’s fastball was absolutely filthy all-day, striking out seven over his 110 pitch gem. Had it not been for a third inning ground ball single by the pitcher, this would have been the first complete game no-hitter for a Pirate since 1976.
Apr. 29: Pirates 5, Cardinals 0- Kingham Flirts With Perfection
Nick Kingham had been on the radar for top Pirates prospects for years, but injuries forced him to be passed on the depth chart by Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams. He finally got a chance to show he was major league ready in late April, and if his warm-up song “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool didn’t set the pace of the game, his slider did.
Kingham’s slider was unhittable all game long, and he took a perfect game into the seventh inning. He would finish with one hit allowed and nine strikeouts. In a season of ups and downs for him, this was the best we saw him pitch.
May 11: Pirates 11, Giants 2- Cutch’s Return
It’s impossible to overstate how much Andrew McCutchen meant to Pittsburgh baseball in his nine years as a Pirate. His return to Pittsburgh went off without a hitch, with fans coming out to pay tribute to 22.
And to top it all off, the Pirates clobbered the Giants 11-2, with new center fielder Starling Marte going 3-5 with a homer.
May 30: Pirates 2, Cubs 1- Musgrove Pushes Back
After losing the first two games of the series, the Pirates needed someone to step up against the Cubs to prevent the sweep at home. That someone turned out to be Joe Musgrove, who fired BBs over his seven innings of work. He also made his presence known on the basepaths, going in hard at second base to break up a potential double-play ball in the 3rd inning.
The play ended up not having any direct impact on the game, but it may be remembered as the moment where the Pirates finally stood up to their inter-divisional bully. They would go 7-7 against the Cubs from that point on in 2018.
July 15: Pirates 7, Brewers 6- Bell Delivers In The Rain
The Pirates entered their final series before the All-Star break knowing that it was going to take a five game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers to get back into the playoff discussion. They opened by winning the first four, but those matches paled in comparison to game five.
The game looked practically over after falling behind 5-2 in the eighth, but David Freese delivered a two out, two strike triple to tie the game in the ninth and force extra innings. After allowing another run in the 10th, Josh Bell delivered a two out triple through the pouring rain to win it.
The game also brought us what was undoubtedly the best Pirates meme of 2018.
July 23: Pirates 7, Indians 0- Bucs Clobber Kluber
The Pirates’ nine game winning streak looked to be in serious Jeopardy when they rolled into Cleveland in late July. Not only were they going up against the defending AL Cy Young winner, but they were starting Trevor Williams, who struggled in the first half of the season.
The Pirates ended up pushing their streak to double digits instead, with the offense hanging seven on Corey Kluber in just four innings. Williams also began what would turn out to be a sensational second half of the season by turning in six shutout frames in the rain shortened contest.
Aug. 3: Pirates 7, Cardinals 6- Archer Day
Chris Archer was a pipe dream for years for the Pirates. He was the type of pitcher the Pirates longed for while being on a contract that they envied. While they had been mentioned to be in talks about him with the Rays during previous trade deadlines, the Pirates never seemed like a realistic destination.
That was until he ran to PNC Park’s mound on Aug. 3.
August wasn’t a good month for Archer, and this underwhelming outing set the pace for the month, but this was a classic back and forth battle against two division rivals who were trying to cement themselves as wild card contenders after surging in July. In the end, it was an eighth inning single by Adam Frazier that made the difference and made it a very happy “Archer Day.”
Sep. 18: Pirates 2, Royals 1- Lavarnway Gets His Chance
There are plenty of legitimate complaints to be made about September baseball. Games are longer than usual, and with expanded rosters, it basically encourages non-competing teams to play greenhorns rather than their best possible lineup to win.
But even the most callused of cynics have to crack a smile when Ryan Lavarnway- a journeyman 31 year old minor league catcher- gets a chance to deliver and comes through with a walk-off hit.
Sep. 28: Pirates 8, Reds 4- Winning Season Clinched
In the grand scheme of things, .500 is nothing to celebrate. Nobody sprayed any champagne after this win. But for a franchise that is not too far removed from 20 years of losing, guaranteeing more wins than losses is still somewhat of an accomplishment, especially since most pundits pegged them as “tankers” at the beginning of the season. It may not have had the magic as it did in 2013, but there’s still a little something there.
Hopefully it’s a stepping stone for a playoff berth next year.
What Was The Best Pirates Win Of 2018?
This poll is closed
Opening Day Chaos
Bucs Win In Cutch’s Return
Musgrove Shuts Up Cubs
Bell Walks It Off In The Rain
Williams Beats Kluber
Win No. 81