Diary of a long-suffering Pirates fan: Game #10. Pirates on pace to break record for most walk-offs in a season

100% of home victories for the Pirates in 2024 are walk-offs.
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages

The record for the most walk off wins in a season is 18 held by the 1959 Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates pitcher who benefited the most from those walk off wins in 1959 was Roy Face who went 18-1 that season, which, in itself, is a record for the best winning percentage by a pitcher for a season.

After winning two of three from the Baltimore Orioles to open their home schedule, the Pirates are on track to obliterate that 1959 record. They just have to continue to win in walk-off fashion for 100 percent of their home victories, like they did against the Orioles this weekend, and the record will be theirs.

Funny thing. The way the Orioles lost this game - on a throwing error - is the way one would expect the Pirates to lose a game.

And honestly, I'm sure it must have happened to the Pirates in the past, but if it did, I cannot recall the Pirates ever losing a game on a walk-off throwing error. I mean, the Pirates franchise has come up with all kinds of ways to lose through the years. But this novel way that the Orioles came up with to lose on Sunday is even unique to aficionados, like me, of Pirates losing seasons of the past.

If you haven't seen the play yet, allow me to set the scene. It's the bottom of the ninth. The Orioles are clinging to a 2-1 lead. But the Pirates have loaded the bases. There is one out. Edward Olivares is the batter.

On a 2-2 pitch, Olivares hits a bouncing ball up the middle. It looks like it has a chance to be a seeing-eye game-winning single to center field. But Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson makes a diving stop of the ball before it can make it into center field, and the momentum of his dive takes him right to the second base bag where he touches second for a force out and proceeds to get to his feet to fire to first for a potential game-ending double play.

However, his throw is wide and not only does the runner on third (Suwinski) score, but the runner on second (Connor Joe) also scores on the overthrow. And the Pirates thus walk it off.

In looking at the replay I am struck by a couple of things. One, it is not clear from the replay whether Henderson would have thrown out Olivares even if it was a good throw. Olivares is not slow, but he's not known as a speedster either. But he is clearly running hard, and one can see him touching first at the exact same time as the ball is seen going by the out-stretched glove of Ryan Mountcastle. So, on a presumption that Olivares would have been safe even on a good throw, the game would have then been tied. There would have still been runners on first and third, and the Pirates' next hitter would still have had another opportunity to win it in the ninth.

Secondly, I am unable to tell from the replay if Rowdy Tellez, who was on first and running to second, affected the throw in any way. In the replay Tellez is not seen in the frame until the very point that Henderson throws the ball. And in that frame, one sees Tellez standing tall (as opposed to sliding) as he goes into second. Did his going in tall disrupt Henderson's throw? Did his going in tall possibly block Henderson's view of his intended target, the first baseman?

Whether it did or not, one can conclude that Tellez, who is certainly not fast, must have nonetheless been hustling on the play to get to second base. And when combined with the hustle of Olivares, it may have created the situation to cause the error; i.e., Henderson knew he had to hurry the throw to beat the hustling Olivares, and just as he is getting ready to throw the ball, here comes a hustling six-foot-four, 275-pound Rowdy Tellez into the picture.

Third - seeing first baseman Ryan Mountcastle not making a better effort to stop the overthrow reminded me of a similar play that was made by Connor Joe in the Opening Day victory against Miami. On that play, Connor Joe laid out and somehow caught an errant Oneil Cruz relay on a double play. Had Joe not dove and made that catch, the ball would have likely sailed into the stands and the Marlin's runner on second would have scored on the overthrow to win the game for the Marlins. Mountcastle, by comparison, did not dive. He did not come off the bag to catch the ball. Heck, he did not even give it a decent stretch that you typically see from other first basemen. And so the ball flew past him, and the Pirates won, and his teammate, Gunnar Henderson, has to take the blame.

So, whether Olivares would have been safe, or whether Tellez disrupted the thow, we will probably never know the answer to these questions. And Henderson is probably being consoled by teammates that these things sometimes happen and that over the course of a 162 game season this error will be forgotten.

Of course, this is coming from a Pirates fan. There have been so many errors and bad pitching performances and poor hitting and losing and losing and losing by the Pirates that not only do we not remember the individual gaffes and errors of yesteryear, we grow numb to them.

And so watching this game unfold as it did, I again had to pinch myself. "Wait a minute," I think. "A player just made a soul-crushing error to cost his team the game and he wasn't wearing a Pirates uniform?" This is definitely different.

It's unlikely that the Pirates will break the record for most walkoffs in a season. And it is still way too early to know what to make of the first place Pirates. But it sure has been fun to watch. And there are still 152 games to go. Are you not entertained?