With baseball (and sports in general) gone for the foreseeable future, I’ve been trying to find different ways to entertain myself.
Watching sporting events from the past has helped. As an NBA fan, it’s neat to watch classic Lakers-Celtics battles from the 80s or Jordan’s Bulls in the 90s. If you put an NFL game on from any era, I’ll probably watch. This past week, I enjoyed watching the rerun of Pirates defeating the Reds in the 2013 Wild Card Game.
All of these past sporting events got me thinking. What are some games, specifically Pirate games from this past decade, that I’ve just flat out forgotten about? These are the deep cuts. They are the games that really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But in the moment, they were exciting.
For this post, I am sharing a game that I had previously forgotten about before scrolling down the old baseball reference page and digging it up. For whatever reason, this game caught my eye. If you have any forgotten games that you’d like to share, please leave a comment.
On May 8, 2012, the Pittsburgh Pirates hosted the Washington Nationals in the first game of a three game set. At that point, the Nationals were very good. Bryce Harper was a teenager. Ryan Zimmerman was in his prime. Adam LaRoche was the cleanup hitter. Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez provided a solid starting rotation. The Nationals would go on to win 98 games. Edwin Jackson got the start on this night.
The Pirates on the other hand were led by budding superstar, Andrew McCutchen. The young core of him, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Jose Tabata seemed promising at the time. AJ Burnett got the start on the mound. Names like Alex Presley and Yamaico Navarro got at bats.
In this game, the Nationals took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning thanks to a Wilson Ramos home run. In the fourth, they added another run thanks to a Rick Ankiel single that scored Harper. In the bottom of the fourth, the Pirates answered with a pair of solo home runs from McCutchen and G.I. Garrett Jones.
The game stayed tied at two until the bottom of the eighth inning when Walker hit a sac fly, giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead. Burnett pitched well in this game, allowing just two runs over those eight innings. He was in line for the win.
In came the dominant Joel Hanrahan for the save. In 2012, Hanrahan had 36 saves in 40 attempts. He had 67 strikeouts in 59.2 innings pitched. He was an All-Star in 2011 and would again be an All-Star that year.
Zimmerman was unfazed. He began the top of the ninth with a single.
Laroche was even more unfazed. Boom. Home run. The Nationals took a 4-3 lead. Tony Watson would eventually finish the inning.
Henry Rodriguez was now attempting to save the game for the Nationals. Casey McGehee began the inning with a fly out to right. Presley then knocked a pinch hit single. Navarro came in to pinch hit for Clint Barmes. After two straight wild pitches, Presley was able to advance to third base. The count was now 2-2. The tying run was standing 90 feet away with less than two outs. What a great opportunity to tie the game. But no. Navarro struck out.
Everything was now up to Rod Barajas. The guy who would go on to hit .206/.283/.343 with 11 home runs for the Pirates in what ended up being the final year of his career. Before this at bat, he was 0-for-his-last-13. Baseball is weird sometimes.
Rodriguez gave him a first pitch fastball at 96 mph on the inside corner. Boom. Barajas cleared his hips early and turned on the cheese for walk off home run just inside of the left field foul pole. It was his first home run as a Pirate. He stumbled around first base raising his right arm in triumph. The fireworks lit up the night. The Zoltan Z’s were a plenty. Pirates win. Pirates win. Tim Neverett and Steve Blass went crazy on the call and it was glorious.
At that point, the Pirates advanced to 13-16 on the year. They would eventually climb to a record of 60-44 before collapsing down the stretch and finishing the year 79-83.
That game early in May was a great one though.