5. Pedro Alvarez homers as Bucs beat Cardinals in 19 innings: How could the same thing happen to the same team twice in two years? That’s exactly what happened to the Bucs on August 19 as they played their second 19-inning marathon in as many years.
This time there was no blown call by Jerry Meals, but there was a Pedro Alvarez 19th-inning bomb and Wandy Rodriguez’s first win as a Pirate. While I still don’t buy the correlation of the consecutive collapses to the 19-inning games, it’s funny how things worked out each time. The Bucs went to San Diego the next night and things were never the same again.
4. Starling Marte homers on first MLB pitch: We waited a long time for Marte to finally get the call and he didn’t waste any time making a great first impression.
Gajtka writes: A top prospect joined the team as it still held a considerable lead for a wild-card berth and was just behind Cincy for the NL Central’s top spot. When the ball went over the fence, it truly seemed like a new era for the Pirates. Of course that feeling faded in August, but Pirates fans hadn’t felt that kind of hope in a long time.
3. A.J. Fires One-Hitter: You can throw the Burnett trade itself here, but on July 31, Burnett was flat out special. He was a leader and a tutor to the Bucs young pitchers all season, but on this night it was all about A.J.
Burnett was masterful and took a no-hitter into the eighth inning at Wrigley Field before he was squeezed on a strike-three call to pinch-hitter Adrian Cardenas, who ultimate got the only hit of the game. Had that been strike three like it should have been, there is very little doubt in my mind that Burnett would have made history. He was that good.
2. Andrew McCutchen’s June and July: McCutchen finished third in the National League MVP balloting this season after he hit .327 with 31 home runs, 96 RBI and 20 stolen bases and made his second consecutive All-Star Game. But he also cemented himself as a bonafide MLB superstar and officially took the torch as the face of the franchise.
There was no better player in baseball during the months of June and July when McCutchen was on a tear unlike anything we have seen in a long time. He did cool down, but what we saw for over a two-month period was nothing short of special.
Weiss adds: This past season, fans saw McCutchen step it up both on and off the field. “Cutch” was more present in the community and seemed to enjoy the off-field stuff a lot more. Inside the clubhouse, he was a quiet leader of this team. On the field, he had his most complete season to date. Fans have reason to expect more this season with these two (Burnett included) as the leaders of the Pirates.
1. Sidney Crosby returns (twice): Penguins fans waited a long time for this and in typical Sidney Crosby fashion, he didn’t disappoint.
The ovation Crosaby got before his first comeback game in November 2011 was enough to give you goosebumps.
Gajtka sums it up best by saying: No. 1 for me was Sid’s return to the ice March 15. It was clear that 87 was back at full strength when he put up 25 points in 14 regular-season games, then added eight more points in the six-game playoff loss to the Flyers. In fact, he looked better than ever in many ways, which was far from certain when he missed nearly the equivalent of a full season due to concussions.
Sid had three points in the March comeback against the Rangers, but his big night against the Islanders feels like his real return, even if it did technically occur in late 2011: