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Pittsburgh Pirates Tailgating
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a Major League Baseball club based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They play in the Central Division of theNational League, and are five-time World Series champions. The Pirates are also often referred to as the “Bucs”, or sometimes the “Buccos” (derived from buccaneer, a synonym for pirate).
The franchise joined the National League in its sixth season in 1887 and was competitive from its early years, winning three National League titles from 1901 to 1903, playing in the very first World Series in 1903 and winning their first World Series in 1909 behind Honus Wagner. The Pirates have had many ups and downs during their long history, most famously winning the 1960 World Series on a game-winning home run by Bill Mazeroski, the only time that Game 7 of the World Series has ever ended with a home run. They also won the1971 World Series behind Roberto Clemente and the 1979 World Series under the slogan “We Are Family“, led by “Pops” Willie Stargell. Overall the Pirates have won five World Series and lost two.
After a run of regular-season success in the early 1990s (winning three straight East Division titles), the Pirates struggled in subsequent decades, with 20 consecutive losing seasons—the longest such streak in North American professional sports history—before posting a winning record in 2013 of 94-68.
Professional baseball has been played in the Pittsburgh area since 1876. The teams of the era were “independents”, barnstorming throughout the region and not affiliated with any organized league, though they did have salaries and were run as business organizations. In 1882, the strongest team in the area joined the American Association as a founding member. Their various home fields in the 19th century were in a then-separate city called Allegheny City, across the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh. The team was listed as “Allegheny” in the standings, and was sometimes called the “Alleghenys” (not the “Alleghenies”) in the same generic way that teams from Boston, New York, and Chicago were sometimes called the “Bostons”, the “New Yorks”, and the “Chicagos”, in the sports writing style of that era. After five mediocre seasons in the A.A., Pittsburgh became the first A.A. team to switch to the older National League in 1887. At this time, the team renamed itself the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, although Allegheny remained a separate city until it was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907. At that time, owner-manager Horace Phillips sold the team to Dennis McKnight; Phillips stayed on as manager.
The Alleghenys were severely crippled during the 1890 season, when nearly all of their stars jumped to the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Players’ League. With a decimated roster, the team experienced what is still the worst season in franchise history, going 23–113. The battle nearly ruined McKnight, and he was forced to return his franchise to the league. However, almost immediately after this, McKnight joined the backers of the Burghers as a minority owner, which then repurchased the Pittsburgh National League franchise and rechartered it under a different corporate name. They were thus able to legally recover the services of most of the players who had jumped to the upstart league a year earlier.
The new owners also signed several players from American Association teams. One of them was highly regarded second baseman Lou Bierbauer, who had previously played with the A.A.’sPhiladelphia Athletics. The Athletics failed to include him on their reserve list, and the Alleghenys picked him up. This led to loud protests by the Athletics, and in an official complaint, an AA official claimed the Alleghenys’ actions were “piratical”. This incident (which is discussed at some length in The Beer and Whisky League, by David Nemec, 1994) quickly accelerated into a schism between the leagues that contributed to the demise of the A.A. Although the Alleghenys were never found guilty of wrongdoing, they made sport of being denounced for being “piratical” by renaming themselves “the Pirates” for the 1891 season. The nickname was first acknowledged on the team’s uniforms in 1912. Around the time the team adopted the Pirates nickname, theUnited States Board on Geographic Names forced the city of Pittsburgh to undergo a controversial name change by having them drop the “h” at the end of the name, making the team’s official name the “Pittsburg Pirates” from the adoption of the Pirates nickname until Pittsburgh was able to get the “h” restored to its name in 1911.
After the 1899 season, the Pirates made what is arguably the best player transaction in franchise history when they picked up nearly all of the star players from the Louisville Colonels. Louisville owner Barney Dreyfuss had been told that the Colonels were slated for elimination when the N.L. contracted from 12 to 8 teams. He secretly purchased a half-interest in the Pirates, then after the season sent nearly all of the Colonels’ stars up the Ohio River to Pittsburgh. Since the transaction occurred before the Colonels officially folded, it was structured as a trade; the Pirates sent four relatively unknown players to Louisville. Despite their nickname, the Pirates at least waited until after the season to pull off this blockbuster trade. This is unlike what happened in 1899 to theCleveland Spiders and, to a lesser extent, the Baltimore Orioles, who were also part of two-team ownerships. Dreyfuss later bought full control of the team and kept it until his death in 1932.
Bolstered by former Colonels shortstop Honus Wagner (who was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area) and player/manager Fred Clarke, the Pirates completely dominated the National League, in part because they lost few star players to the rival American League. However, owing to injuries to their starting pitchers, they lost the first modern World Series ever played, in 1903, toBoston. Deacon Phillippe pitched five complete games, winning three of them, but it was not enough. With largely the same star players, the Pirates would continue to be a strong team over the next few years, and won their first World Series title in 1909, defeating the Detroit Tigers in seven games. The same year, the club opened Forbes Field, which would be its home stadium for the next 61 years.
The Pirates originally played in Recreation, Union, and Exposition Parks, all in what was then Allegheny City. Allegheny City was annexed by Pittsburgh in December 1907. Accordingly, the Pirates did not play their first major league game in Pittsburgh until 1908 – over 25 years after their founding.
The decline of Honus Wagner, considered by many to be the greatest shortstop ever, led to a number of losing seasons, culminating in a disastrous 51–103 record in 1917; however, veteran outfielder Max Carey and young players Pie Traynor andKiki Cuyler, along with a remarkably deep pitching staff, brought the Pirates back into the spotlight. The Pirates recovered from a 3–1 deficit to win the 1925 World Series over the Washington Senators, and reached the 1927 World Series before being swept by the New York Yankees, who at that time had built the most dominant team in baseball. The 1927 season was the first for the sharp-hitting combination of brothers Lloyd Waner and Paul Waner, who along with shortstop Arky Vaughan ensured that the Pirates had plenty of Hall of Fame-caliber position players through 1941. However, the Pirates’ crushing defeats in 1927 and 1938 (when they lost the pennant to the Chicago Cubs in the final days of the season) were tremendous setbacks.
The post-World War II years were not kind to the Pirates, despite the presence of a genuine star in Ralph Kiner, who led or co-led the National League in home runs for seven consecutive seasons (1946 through 1952). While attendance figures at Forbes Field rose to among the top in the NL, the team built around Kiner placed in the first division only once – in 1948 – and in 1952 compiled one of the worst records in major league history, winning 42 and losing 112 games (.273) and finishing 54½ games out of first place. In 1946, the long era of ownership by the Barney Dreyfuss family came to an end when it sold the team to a syndicate headed by Indianapolis businessman Frank McKinney that included entertainer Bing Crosby. By 1950, Columbus, Ohio-based real estate tycoon John W. Galbreath emerged as majority owner, and his family would run the team for another 35 years and supervise its rise to the top of the NL.
Galbreath’s first major move, the hiring of Branch Rickey as general manager after the 1950 campaign, was initially a great disappointment to Pittsburgh fans. Rickey had invented the farm system with the Cardinals and broken the baseball color line with the Dodgers, building dynasties with each club. In Pittsburgh, though, he purged the roster of its higher-salaried veterans (including Kiner in 1953) and flooded the team with young players. Many of those youngsters faltered, but those who fulfilled Rickey’s faith in them – pitchers Vern Law, Bob Friend and Elroy Face, shortstop Dick Groat, second baseman Bill Mazeroski, and especially outfielder Roberto Clemente, drafted from Brooklyn after his only minor league season (1954) – would form the nucleus of the Pirates’ 1960 championship club. Moreover, as in St. Louis and Brooklyn, Rickey put into place one of baseball’s most successful farm and scouting systems, keeping the Pirates competitive into the late 1970s. However, all this was not evident when Rickey retired due to ill health in 1955, with the Pirates still struggling to escape the NL basement.
The 1948 team was the only postwar Pirates squad with a winning record until 1958, Danny Murtaugh‘s first full season as manager. Murtaugh is widely credited with inventing the concept of the closer by frequently playing Face late in close games. The 1960 team featured eight All-Stars, but was widely predicted to lose the World Series to a powerful New York Yankees team. In one of the most memorable World Series in history, the Pirates were defeated by ten or more runs in three games, won three close games, then recovered from a 7–4 deficit late in Game 7 eventually to win on a walk-off home run by Mazeroski, a second baseman better known for defensive wizardry. The 1960 Pirates were the only team between 1945 and 2001 to have not succumbed to the so-called “Ex-Cubs Factor” in the postseason. They also became the first team to win a World Series on a home run, a feat later achieved by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993, although Joe Carter‘s home run came in Game 6 of the 1993 Series. Mazeroski’s homer remains the only walk-off home run in Game 7 of a World Series.
The 1960s would continue with extremely solid defensive play by Bill Mazeroski and the great offensive and defensive abilities of Clemente, baseball’s firstPuerto Rican superstar. Clemente was regarded as one of the game’s best all-time hitters, and possessed a tremendous arm in right field. Although not the first black-Hispanic baseball player (an honor belonging to Minnie Miñoso), Clemente’s charisma and leadership in humanitarian causes made him an icon across the continent. During his playing career, Clemente was often overlooked, but today many consider him to have been one of the greatest right fielders in baseball history.
Even with Roberto Clemente, however, the Pirates struggled to post winning marks from 1961 to 1964, and Murtaugh was replaced by Harry Walker in 1965. With Walker, a renowned batting coach, at the helm, and the hitting of Clemente, Matty Alou, Manny Mota and others, the Bucs fielded contending, 90-plus win teams in both 1965 and 1966, with Clemente claiming the National League MVP Award in the latter year. However, Pittsburgh had no answer for the pitching of the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, and finished third both seasons. In 1967, they fell back to .500, and did not contend through the rest of the 1960s.
1970–1979 and “The Family”
Slugger Willie Stargell became a fixture in the Pittsburgh lineup in the late 1960s, and the Pirates returned to prominence in 1970. Murtaugh returned as manager and the Pirates’ home field, Forbes Field, was demolished in favor of the multi-purpose Three Rivers Stadium. In 1970, the Pirates won their first of five National League East division titles over the next seven years, and won their fourth World Series in 1971 behind a .414 Series batting average by Clemente. They also thought they had a genuine superstar pitcher (historically rare for the Pirates) in Steve Blass, who pitched two masterful games in the World Series against Baltimore and had excellent seasons in 1968 and 1972.
On September 1, 1971, the Pirates made Major League Baseball history by fielding the first all-black/minority starting lineup: second basemanRennie Stennett, center fielder Gene Clines, right fielder Roberto Clemente, left fielder Willie Stargell, catcher Manny Sanguillén, third basemanDave Cash, first baseman Al Oliver, shortstop Jackie Hernández, and pitcher Dock Ellis. Manager Danny Murtaugh had never hesitated using minority players in the lineup, but even the players took notice when he posted the lineup that day. Blass later recalled, “The thing I remember about it, when he was interviewed afterwards, Murtaugh said, ‘I put the nine best athletes out there. The best nine I put out there tonight happened to be black. No big deal. Next question.’”
The sports world was stunned and saddened when Clemente died in a plane crash on December 31, 1972, while accompanying a shipment of relief supplies to the victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. Tom Walker, then-Montreal Expos pitcher and future father of Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, offered to join Clemente that day but Clemente insisted that he stay home. Thus, Roberto Clemente had an influence on the 2013 playoff run. He had reached a milestone by rapping his 3,000th career hit, a stand-up double off Jon Matlack of the New York Mets on September 30, 1972, in what would prove to be his last regular-season at-bat. The Baseball Hall of Fame waived its usual waiting requirement and inducted Clemente immediately. Pittsburgh would erect a statue and name a bridge and park near the stadium after him, as well as a street in the Oakland neighborhood near the former site of Forbes Field.
In 1973, Blass suffered a mysterious decline in his pitching abilities, posting a 9.85 ERA. To this day, pitchers who suddenly lose the ability to throw strikes are said to have “Steve Blass disease.” Blass retired soon after; he has since, for almost two decades, been one of the Pirates’ radio and TV announcers.
The Pirates made the playoffs in 1974 and 1975, but lost the National League Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds, respectively. The speedy Omar Morenoand the power-hitting Dave Parker joined Stargell in the lineup during this period. After the 1976 season, in which the Bucs finished in second place behind the cross-state Philadelphia Phillies, Danny Murtaugh died. The Pirates struck a trade with the Oakland Athletics in which catcher Manny Sanguillén was sent to Oakland for manager Chuck Tanner. The Pirates would finish second to the Phillies once again in 1977, with Parker winning a batting title. It was also in 1977 that the Pirates began wearing yellow and black uniforms with pillbox caps. Stargell would award teammates with “Stargell Stars” on their caps for excellent plays on the field. The following year, the Pirates turned the end of the 1978 season into an impromptu race for the NL East, as they tried to chase down the collapsing Phillies, who ultimately won the division, only to fall short during the final home stand of the season (ironically against the Phillies). Despite this, Parker won another batting title and was named National League MVP to go with it.
Adopting the popular song “We Are Family” by the Philadelphia disco group Sister Sledge as their theme song, the 1979 Pirates held off the Montreal Expos to claim the pennant. “We Are Family” was elevated from theme song to anthem status (and is still nearly synonymous with the ’79 Pirates), with fans chanting “Fam-a-lee!” from the stands. The Pirates faced the Baltimore Orioles again in the World Series, which (like 1971) they won in seven games, on October 17, 1979. During the 1979 championship season, a Pirate player was designated as Most Valuable Player in every available category: All-Star Game MVP (Dave Parker), NL Championship Series MVP (Willie Stargell), World Series MVP (Willie Stargell), and National League MVP (Willie Stargell, shared with Keith Hernandez of the Cardinals).
1986–1996: The Leyland era
After the 1979 World Series, the Pirates entered a period of decline, steadily declining until they were regarded as the worst team in baseball during the mid-1980s. After the Pittsburgh Drug Trials and a league worst finish in 1985, the Galbreath family sold the franchise to the Pittsburgh Associates, a consortium of area businesses determined to keep the team from relocating. Jim Leyland took over as manager in 1986, and under his guidance the Pirates gradually climbed out of the cellar. They featured young and exciting players such as the “outfield of dreams” Bobby Bonilla, Barry Bonds, andAndy Van Slyke; infielders Jay Bell, Steve Buechele, Sid Bream, and José Lind; catcher Mike LaValliere, and pitchers Doug Drabek, John Smiley, andStan Belinda.
As a rookie in 1982, Johnny Ray played in every game and was named the Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News.
In 1988, the young team finished 85–75 and seemed ready to compete for a pennant. However, the 1989 season was a major setback, with injuries depleting the squad and leading to a fifth-place finish. Among the low points of the season was a game against rival Philadelphia Phillies in Philadelphiaon June 8, 1989, where the Pirates became the first team in major-league history to score 10 runs in the first inning and nevertheless lose the game. Pirates broadcaster (and former pitcher) Jim Rooker famously vowed that if the team blew the lead, he would walk home from Philadelphia—a vow he fulfilled after the season while raising money for charity.
The Pirates would win the first three NL East titles of the 1990s, but failed to advance to the World Serieseach time. In both 1991 and 1992, they lost closely contested League Championship Series to the Atlanta Braves.
1996–2010: The Dark Ages
After the 1992 season, the front office set out to rebuild the team, giving up several high-payroll players in favor of a younger crew. The Pirates were unable to produce a winning season until 2013, accumulating a 20-year losing streak – the longest in any of the four major professional North American sports leagues. The closest the Pirates had come to fielding a winning team during that period was the 1997 team, which finished second in the NL Central despite having a losing record and a payroll of $9 million. The 1997 team was eliminated from playoff contention during the season’s final week. In 2012 they finished in 4th place with a 79–83 record and were not eliminated until late September. The 2013 team became the first Pirates team since 1992 to secure a winning season.
2001–2007: A new ballpark
General manager Dave Littlefield was installed July 13, 2001, midway through the 2001 season, and began overhauling the team to comply with ownerKevin McClatchy‘s dictum to drastically reduce the payroll. Enigmatic but talented third baseman Aramis Ramírez was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2003 for a fairly minimal return under pressure to dump his $6 million salary for 2004, and he proceeded to become a star for the Cubs. Brian Giles was one of the National League‘s best hitters for several years, but he and his $9 million salary were also traded in 2003 to the San Diego Padres for youngsters Óliver Pérez, Jason Bay, and Cory Stewart. Pirate fans found this trade much more palatable in the short run, as Pérez led the majors instrikeouts per inning and Bay won the Rookie of the Year Award award in 2004, while Giles put up a subpar season by his standards. After the 2004 season, Jason Kendall went to the Oakland Athletics in a cross-exchange of high-salary players.
Illustrating the Pirates’ rebuilding efforts, at the close of the 2005 season, the team fielded the youngest roster in baseball, with an average age of 26.6 years. During the course of the season, 14 players were called up from its Triple-A affiliate. On September 6, manager Lloyd McClendon was fired after 5 losing seasons. On October 11, Jim Tracy was hired as the new manager. The 2006 season got off to a slow start with the Pirates losing their first six games. The Bucs stood at an abysmal 30–60 mark by the time they hosted the All Star Game at PNC Park. During the second half of the season, however, the Pirates made a successful turnaround and finished the second half with a 37–35 record. This is the first time the Pirates have finished the second half of the season with a winning record since 1992. Third baseman Freddy Sanchez won the National League batting titlefor the 2006 season with an average of .344.
The 2007 season was a year of transition for the Pirates. Robert Nutting replaced McClatchy as majority owner, becoming the sixth majority owner in Pirates history. On July 6, 2007, Kevin McClatchy announced he was stepping down as the Pirates CEO at the end of the 2007 season. On September 7, 2007, Nutting fired general manager Dave Littlefield.
2008–2010: Nutting/Huntington/Russell era
The Pittsburgh Pirates began to shape their organizational management team late in the 2007 season. On September 13, Frank Coonelly, chief labor counsel for Major League Baseball, was introduced as the team’s new president. On September 25, 2007, the Pirates announced the hiring of Neal Huntington, formerly a scout in the Cleveland Indians organization, as the team’s new general manager. On October 5, 2007, Jim Tracy was fired by the Pirates, leaving them with another search for a manager. Torey Lovullo had originally been named as a leading candidate for the position, but his name was gradually replaced by others in the minor league ranks, one being Ottawa Lynx manager John Russell, who eventually was named the new manager November 5, 2007. He had originally been the third base coach under previous manager Lloyd McClendon from 2003 to 2005 until he was fired by the previous General Manager Dave Littlefield.
As the Pirates once again failed to produce a winning record, the team began another round of rebuilding. Prior to the trade deadline, the Pirates made several deals that sent several accomplished veterans to other franchises. On July 26, the Pirates traded left fielder Xavier Nady and pitcher Dámaso Marte to the New York Yankees in return for José Tábata, Ross Ohlendorf, Dan McCutchen, and Jeff Karstens. Karstens began his career with the Pirates at 2–0 and came within 4 outs of pitching the first perfect game in franchise history on August 6, 2008. On July 31, Jason Bay was traded to the Boston Red Sox in a three-team deal that sent Manny Ramírez to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris to the Pirates from the Dodgers and Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen to the Pirates from the Red Sox. On November 24, the Pirates signed Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel as undrafted free agents, making them the first Indian citizens to sign a contract with any American professional sports team. Both men are pitchers, who were first spotted in the “Million Dollar Arm” contest organized in India by J.B. Bernstein earlier in 2008. Trading away players for prospects continued in 2009, as the team’s only 2008 All-Star Nate McLouth was traded to the Atlanta Braves for prospects Jeff Locke, Charlie Mortonand Gorkys Hernández. On June 30, the team dealt Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett to the Washington Nationals, as well as sending utility playerEric Hinske to the New York Yankees. This upset some Pirates players, including Adam LaRoche and Jack Wilson, who questioned the direction of the team. LaRoche was later traded to the Red Sox in exchange for minor leaguers Hunter Strickland and Argenis Díaz. On July 29, Wilson was traded to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for shortstop Ronny Cedeño and Minor League players Jeff Clement, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin, and Nathan Adcock. The same day, the Pirates traded Sanchez to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Tim Alderson. On September 7, the Pittsburgh Pirates were defeated by the Chicago Cubs 4–2. The loss was the Pirates’ 82nd of the year, and it clinched for them the longest streak of consecutive losing seasons in any North American professional sport.
2011–present: Signs of life
On November 14, 2010, after a disastrous 2010 season, which saw 105 losses, the Pirates hired a new manager in Clint Hurdle. Hurdle was a part of the Colorado Rockies 2007 NL Pennant and was the hitting coach for the American League Champion Texas Rangers during the 2010 season. Although the losing streak would continue for two more seasons, the Pirates began to show signs of success. Eventually, the Pirates produced a winning season in 2013, resulting in the first post-season appearance since 1992.
2011–2012: Late season collapses
The 2011 season had a promising start, as the Pirates were above .500 at the All-Star Break for the first time since 1992. The Pirates also sent three players to the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game with the selections of starting pitcher Kevin Correia, closer Joel Hanrahan and center fielderAndrew McCutchen. On July 15, and again on July 18, the Pirates moved into first place of the NL Central. This marked the first two times that the Pirates were in first place this late in the season since 1997. The last day they were in first was July 25. The Bucs split four games with the Braves on July 25 to July 28. After this they lost 10 games in a row and never recovered. Starting in late July rumblings of “America’s Team” began to surface, with ESPN television picking up two of their games for their nightly baseball telecast. The Pirates acquired two former all-stars through the trade market during the Trade Deadline on July 31: First baseman Derrek Lee from the Orioles and outfielder Ryan Ludwick from the Padres. On July 26, a questionable call at home plate led to a 19-inning loss against the Atlanta Braves. The Pirates then won only one game from that point to August 8, including a season-high 10-game losing streak in that span. Despite a promising season, with a loss to the St Louis Cardinals on September 14, 2011, the team lost its 82nd game of the season, ensuring a 19-year losing season streak.
In 2012, the Pirates aggressively pursued and acquired Yankees pitcher A. J. Burnett to bolster their starting pitching staff. During the first few months of the season, team pitching held up very well, but the offense was sluggish. However, the bats began to pick up in June as many of the players began to dramatically improve offensively. By the time July hit, the Pirates had soared to first place in the NL Central at the All Star break – the first time the Bucs entered the break at first place since the “Freak Show” team of 1997. Andrew McCutchen would lead the majors in batting average and the “Power of Zoltan” (reference to a character scene in the movie Dude, Where’s My Car?) began to sweep PNC Park and the city of Pittsburgh.
The Pirates were 63–47 on August 8, but a stunning disintegration left the team scuffling down the stretch, effectively eliminating them from the NL Central race and the Wild card race. On September 28, the Pirates were no-hit by Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey; the loss was their 81st of the season, ensuring their 20th consecutive non-winning season. They lost their 82nd game on September 30, clinching their 20th consecutive losing season, extending the longest such streak in North American sports history. They are also the only Major League Baseball team to be 16 games over .500 after two-thirds of the season complete and finish with a losing record. The 82nd loss came 4–3 to the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park on September 30, with the Reds scoring twice in the ninth inning off of All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan.
2013: A winning season
After two consecutive seasons of late season collapses, Huntington and Hurdle were determined to be aggressive in free agency, adding players and veteran leadership that would stave off another Pittsburgh Pirates collapse in 2013. In the offseason, the team agreed with veteran catcher Russell Martin on a two-year, $17 million deal. Martin, while providing decent offensive numbers, was considered to be a major defensive upgrade over the previous year’s platoon of Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry. In 2012, Barajas and McKenry had combined to throw out 19 of 173 baserunners, for a caught stealing percentage of 11%, while Russell Martin held a career caught stealing percentage of 30.25% entering the 2013 season. On December 26, 2012, the Pirates traded established closer Joel Hanrahan and infielder Brock Holt to the Boston Red Sox for reliever Mark Melancon, and prospects Jerry Sands, Ivan Dejesus, and Stolmy Pimentel. With this move, the Pirates resigned setup man Jason Grilli to a two-year deal worth $4.5 million, to become the new Pirates closer. Melancon, who was under-valued after a miserable, injury-riddled 2012 season, replaced Grilli as the Pirates setup man. The trade wound up leaning strongly in favor of the Pirates, as Grilli and Melancon would anchor the so-called “Shark Tank” bullpen as one of the best bullpens in MLB as well as both being selected to the All-Star Game, while Hanrahan wound up only playing in nine games for the Red Sox before suffering an injury to his pitching arm and requiring Tommy John surgery just as his contract was getting ready to expire at the end of the season.
On February 8, 2013, the Pirates finalized a two-year, $12.75 million deal with starting pitcher Francisco Liriano. The deal had been delayed two months because Liriano had broken his non-throwing arm in December 2012, and had refused to take a physical.
Though the Pirates made no trades before the July 31 deadline, they would make some moves to shore up their lineup for a potential playoff run, acquiring Marlon Byrd and John Buck from theNew York Mets on August 27, 2013 and trading with the Minnesota Twins for Justin Morneau on August 31, 2013.
On September 3, 2013, the Pirates defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 in Milwaukee to win their 81st game of the season, clinching their first non-losing season since 1992. Then, following a four-game losing streak, the Pirates defeated the Texas Rangers 1-0 on September 9 for their 82nd win, clinching their first winning season in 21 years. 14 days later, due to a combination of a Pirates win and a Nationals‘ loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pirates headed to postseason play for the first time in twenty-one seasons. By finishing the season with a three game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, their chief competition for the NL Wild Card, the Pirates hosted and won their first home playoff game since 1992 in the National League Wild Card Game on October 1, 2013 with a score of 6-2.
That victory put the Pirates into the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. On October 3, 2013, the Cardinals rode a 7-run inning to a 9-1 win over the Pirates. The Pirates evened the series with a 7-1 victory on in Game 2 on October 4, tying the series heading into Game 3. The Pirates then took a 2-1 Series lead by defeating the Cardinals in dramatic fashion at PNC Park 5-3 before dropping the remaining two games to the Cardinals by scores of 2-1 and 6-1, thereby being eliminated from further post-season play.
The rivalry between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pirates was considered by some to be one of the best rivalries in the National League. The rivalry started when the Pittsburgh Pirates entered the NL in 1887, four years after the Phillies.
The Phillies and the Pirates had remained together after the National League split into two divisions in 1969. During the period of two-division play (1969 to 1993), the two National League Eastdivision rivals won the two highest numbers of division championships, reigning almost exclusively as NL East champions in the 1970s and again in the early 1990s. the Pirates nine, the Phillies six; together, the two teams’ 15 championships accounted for more than half of the 25 NL East championships during that span.
After the Pirates moved to the National League Central in 1994, the teams face each other only in two series each year and the rivalry has diminished. However, many fans, especially older ones, retain their dislike for the other team and regional differences between Eastern and Western Pennsylvania still fuel the rivalry.
Within the Central Division
For a majority of the time the Pirates have spent in the Central Division, it has been rather difficult for the team to develop a true “rival” based on the lack of success the team had from 1993-2010. As of 2011, the team has had very heated series battles with the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals.