With the 2020 MLB regular season on hold, it’s time to look back on some of the biggest Pittsburgh Pirates moments over the past decade. We’ll rewind to August 23, 2017 and dive into the match up of the first place Los Angeles Dodgers (89-36) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (61-66)
It was a warm and slightly windy day when the Pittsburgh Pirates took the field in game three of a four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was also the seventh game of an eight-day homestand that found the Pirates 2-8 over their last 10 games.
The Pirates also had no answer for best team in the MLB who had defeated the Pirates in each game up to this point in the season. It would take a lot of luck, a lot of pitching, and just a few feet over the left field fence to notch the lone win against the Dodgers that year.
Taking the mound for the Pirates that day, making his 26th start of the season, was number 57 Trevor Williams (5-6, 4.71 ERA). Williams, coming off an 8-run outing in his last game, started off the day strong with giving up just a 1-out single to short-stop Corey Seager, who would go 3-for-5 in the game, before closing down the inning.
The opposition for the day was none other than veteran Rich Hill (9-4, 3.54 ERA), who was making his 19th start of the 2017 campaign. Hill began on a roll, striking out Starling Marte and Josh Harrison in a clean 1st inning.
This theme would continue into the second, with Williams striking out Yasiel Puig and Logan Forsythe in a clean inning. Hill would get rookie Josh Bell to ground out softly (after a replay-review) before striking-out Sean Rodriquez looking.
In the 3rd inning Austin Barnes notched a base hit to left, just outside of the reach of third baseman, David Freese, before a free out from Hill on a fouled bunt and a strikeout brought Seager back to the plate. The Dodgers would put the first chess piece in scoring position on a Seager base hit to right, but a nice play by second baseman Harrison, while moving to his left, would end the inning.
The Dodgers would come close to striking again in the 4th inning with back-to-back base knocks. It would take a highlight real play by Harrison, while ranging far past the second base bag to his right to make a diving stop, and a line-drive to shortstop Jordy Mercer to help strand two runners in scoring position.
As for the Pirates, not much happened on offense over the middle-portion of the game. The closest they had to a hit came when Harrison popped up a bunt down the first base line, which was caught on a nice sliding attempt by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Other than that, Hill pretty much dealt right through the middle portion of the lineup.
For Williams and the Pirates defense, the 5th and 6th innings would be moved along by a couple of routine double plays. Both were 4-6-3 and both ending the inning. He would get hit hard over the 7th and 8th innings, giving up a double and even hitting a batter, but a couple strikeouts and a nice snag by Mercer would prevent any bleeding.
Williams was certainly a lot stronger than his previous start, and he would continue this trend for the rest of the year. Williams marked a 2.02 ERA from August 23rd to the end of the season, logging six starts and 35 innings.
Hill, on the other hand, didn’t face much opposition over the 7th and 8th innings, outside of a line-drive out by Bell that forced second baseman Chase Utley to lay out for a spectacular grab. This, and a few strikeouts, marked the only action for the Pirates until the 9th inning.
In the 9th inning, the Pirates finally got a base runner. It was a hard-shot by Mercer that caught third baseman Forsythe off balance, ending the perfect bid. This was ruled an error, however, so the no-hitter was still in play. A sacrifice would move the Pirates’ first base runner into scoring position, but that would be as far as they could get.
Juan Nicasio would come out for the 10th inning, dealing a strikeout over a clean inning to give the Pirates another chance at the plate. The Pirates’ bullpen was lights out on this night, using just 22 pitches to get from the 8th inning to the 10th.
It would finally be in the 10th that the Pirates’ long day at the plate would be rewarded. After seeming like his night might be over, Hill took the hill one last time looking to cement his place in MLB history. Let’s take a look at what happened next, on a 2-1 count:
“No-hitter, gone! Shutout, gone! And now the game is gone!” And just like that, the crowd of 19,859 walked home to the sound of fireworks and applause.
While 2017 wasn’t the most entertaining season, nor was it one of the better Pirate teams, there was still plenty to root for and be happy about. Including this night in late August that provided one of the most memorable regular season walk-off home runs in both team and MLB history. As we enter a strange period of uncertainty when it comes to baseball, or life in general, its times like these that I like to remind myself that it isn’t always about winning seasons or championship rings; it’s the love of the game that matters.