Going, going, gone: Bucs' top 10 HRs of decade

December 27th, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- What kind of home runs do you remember most? The long, majestic blasts sent far beyond the ballpark’s fences? A well-timed shot on the playoff stage? A popular player’s first or final homer?

Over the last decade, the Pirates saw all of the above and more. The biggest hits in their best game of the 2010s were home runs. They watched and test the limits of tracking technology. They witnessed start his career with a bang years before said farewell to PNC Park in grand fashion.

Here are the top 10 home runs hit by the Pirates over the last decade:

1) Byrd, Martin fire up wild crowd
Oct. 1, 2013

If it seems like every best-of-the-decade moment ultimately comes back to the 2013 National League Wild Card Game, well … of course it does. In attendance for the Pirates’ first postseason appearance since 1992, a sold-out crowd at PNC Park truly came to life when Marlon Byrd put the Pirates ahead of the Reds with a solo shot to lead off the second inning. The fans chanted Johnny Cueto’s name when Russell Martin came to the plate, and after Cueto dropped the ball, Martin gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead with another solo homer. Martin hit another long ball in the seventh off reliever Logan Ondrusek in Pittsburgh’s 6-2 victory.

2) Cutch walks off vs. Cards
July 11, 2015

This one had everything you’d want: the face of the franchise, a game-winning blast, a dramatic moment and a huge game with future postseason implications against a division rival. The Pirates and Cardinals went back and forth for 13 innings, only for St. Louis to take a lead heading in the 14th. It wouldn’t last. After Neil Walker led off the inning with a single, Andrew McCutchen crushed a walk-off shot to center field and marched toward his teammates at home plate to cap an unforgettable 6-5 victory in the middle of the Bucs’ 98-win campaign. Watch here.

3) The one they needed
Sept. 23, 2013

Maybe you don’t remember this home run all that well, but you definitely remember the night it happened: It was when the Pirates clinched their first postseason appearance since 1992 in a 2-1 win over the Cubs. Pittsburgh carried a 1-0 lead into the eighth, only for rock-steady reliever Mark Melancon to give it up. But Marte saved the day, crushing a go-ahead homer off Kevin Gregg in the ninth. Three more outs and a dramatic play at the plate later, the Bucs were on their way back to the playoffs. Watch here.

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4) No more no-no
Aug. 23, 2017

It was the Pirates’ only hit on a historic night. Josh Harrison came to the plate in the 10th inning at PNC Park to face Dodgers lefty Rich Hill, who had been perfect for eight frames and unhittable for nine. Harrison launched a 2-1 fastball just over the fence and into the left-field seats for a wild 1-0 win. He is still the only player in Major League Baseball history to end a no-hit bid with a walk-off homer. It wasn’t just historically unlikely, either. According to Statcast, balls with the exit velocity (94 mph) and launch angle (33 degrees) of Harrison’s hit went for homers less than 10 percent of the time to that point in 2017, and only 2.5 percent of homers were hit less than 350 feet. But history is history, and it belonged to Harrison that night.

5) The first Marte partay
July 26, 2012

Batting leadoff in his Major League debut, the 23-year-old Marte didn’t even give young, beardless Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel time to settle in at the start of Pittsburgh’s eventual 5-3 win. Marte jumped on the first pitch he saw and crushed it to left-center field. He is one of only 30 players in Major League history to homer on the first pitch thrown to him in the Majors. Marte, who signed out of the Dominican Republic for only $85,000 before developing into a top prospect, quickly turned into a high-level outfielder and emerged as one of the most valuable players on the Pirates’ 2013-15 postseason teams.

6) Pops would have been proud
May 8, 2019

Pirates broadcaster Joe Block called this one “Stargell-ian,” and he wasn’t kidding. A week into his award-winning month of May, Josh Bell clobbered a pitch from Rangers starter Shelby Miller, sent it out of PNC Park at 114.9 mph and deposited it directly into the Allegheny River. The 472-foot shot came in a 9-6 loss, but it was the fourth-longest homer hit by a Pirate since Statcast began tracking batted-ball distances in 2015. (Bell also owns the second spot, a 474-foot missile over the batter’s eye at PNC Park that probably also deserves a spot on this list.) Bell became the fourth player in PNC Park history (and the third Pirate) to reach the river on the fly. He joined Daryle Ward (July 6, 2002), Garrett Jones (June 2, 2013) and the next man on this list.

7) Into the Pirate’s ship
May 19, 2015

Pedro Álvarez owns the longest homer since Statcast started tracking home run distances, a 479-foot blast he hit on Oct. 4, 2015, that serves as a testament to the raw power “El Toro” displayed with the Bucs. You can’t help but remember this one, though, even if it came in an 8-5 loss to the Twins. Álvarez crushed a 446-foot blast over the right-field seats at PNC Park so hard it was, as broadcaster Greg Brown said, “just a matter of where it lands.” And how about this: It landed in a boat docked along the river’s north shore. Only three Pirates appeared in the Home Run Derby during this decade: Bell, McCutchen and Álvarez.

8) A grand entrance
July 9, 2016

If Bell was nervous during his first weekend in the Majors, he didn’t show it. The Pirates called up one of their top prospects to serve as a bat off the bench heading into the All-Star break, and Bell set an almost impossibly high standard for himself. The rookie delivered a pinch-hit single off Jake Arrieta in his first career at-bat. His encore? A grand slam off Adam Warren that cleared the right-field seats and earned him a curtain call at PNC Park en route to a 12-6 win. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bell was the first player with a pinch-hit grand slam within his first two career at-bats since Jeremy Hermida in 2005. It was a goosebump-inducing moment for everyone in the seats and in the Pirates dugout.

9) A grand farewell
Sept. 26, 2017

At this point of McCutchen’s exemplary Pirates career, three accomplishments remained on his baseball bucket list: a World Series championship, a home-run robbery and a grand slam. McCutchen crossed off the last item during one of the best games of his career, a 4-for-4 performance in which he homered twice and drove in eight runs during a 10-1 thrashing of the Orioles. It also turned out to be his second-to-last home game in a Pittsburgh uniform, and what better way to send off a franchise icon than one of his best days? McCutchen smiled broadly with his arms outstretched as he rounded the bases following his slam. He received two curtain calls and earned another standing ovation as he left the game in the seventh inning. Then he took a pair of showers after Marte and Gregory Polanco dumped coolers over his head after the game. “Just a night to remember,” McCutchen said afterward.

10) The Pittsburgh kid
April 1, 2011

What could have possibly made Pittsburgh more excited about a new era -- with Clint Hurdle managing his first game for the Pirates at Wrigley Field -- than a grand slam by the local kid, Neil Walker? The Bucs went on to beat the Cubs, 6-3, and Walker’s slam off Ryan Dempster made him the first Pirate since Roberto Clemente to hit a grand slam on Opening Day. Walker’s Opening Day heroics continued in 2014, when he beat the Cubs with a walk-off homer off Carlos Villanueva. Watch here.