Nine years ago on October 1, 2013, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds in the National League wild-card game that might just be the most memorable event in Buccos history.
It wasn’t so much memorable for the Pirates’ victory that propelled them into the divisional championship but rather what the fans did that night specifically to Reds starter Johnny Cueto. In lasting just 3 1/3 innings, Cueto was on the mound a victim of chants of his name by the fans that were incredibly and unbelievably LOUD. Like the famed Bobby Thomson “shot heard ‘round the world” on October 3, 1951, a walk-off home run by Thomson that gave the New York Giants the National League pennant over the Dodgers, this event in Pittsburgh might as well be termed “fan heard ‘round the world.”
For this writer, it was the most amazing event I have ever witnessed in the 50 years I have been following Pittsburgh Pirates baseball. Along the way, I was fortunate to watch men like Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Steve Blass, Al Oliver, Andrew Mccutchen, Manny Sanguillen, just to name a few. Still, despite the Hall of Fame players that I witnessed, and the two World Series titles I was able to watch and attend (was at all 3 games in 1979 in Pittsburgh), not one evening or day game matches what I watched and heard on October 1, 2013.
Listening to those amazing fans taunting Cueto sent chills up my spine because of how awesome it truly was. The best part however was what the chanting did to Cueto. Those fans got inside the head of the Reds starter causing him to make mistake after mistake. In the short appearance he made, Cueto surrendered eight hits and four earned runs while he coughed up two home runs. This in less than four innings of pitching.
It was in the second inning that former Pirate Marlon Byrd smacked a round-tripper off Cueto with Russell Martin in the on-deck circle. With his name being heard all over downtown Pittsburgh and across radios and televisions everywhere, Cueto prepared to face Martin and with the chants of “Cueto” in his ears, he dropped the ball on the mound. When he resumed pitching with the next toss to Martin, the former Pirates catcher blasted into the stands for a back-to-back home run and the crowd went wild.
Just watch for yourself below and if you are a Pittsburgh Pirates fan you can’t tell me nine years later this still does not get you fired up.
The Pirates had an outstanding team then but for 22 years prior from 1993 to 2012, the Bucs failed to finish a season above .500. Their newly found success in 2013 was short-lived. Winning 94 games in that illustrious 2013 season they would make the playoffs two more consecutive seasons winning 88 and then 98 games before falling back under .500 in 2016. In 2018 they got a winning season again winning 82 games but missed the playoffs and finished in fourth place in the N.L. Central.
Since 2018 the Pirates saw all those players from 2013 head elsewhere and losing is now again the norm in the ‘Burgh. This leaves us to wonder whatever became of that starting nine for Pittsburgh on October 1, 2013, and the pitchers that threw that night for the Buccos?
Here’s where those men headed and where some are today.
Pedro Alvarez – As a rookie in 2010, Alvarez was highly regarded and thought to become one of the Pirates’ next great sluggers. In that playoff season of 2013, Alvarez led the National League in home runs with 36. In six seasons with the Pirates, Pedro Alvarez smashed 131 round-trippers. Following the 2015 season, Alvarez became a free agent and signed on with the Baltimore Orioles. This was after a final campaign in Pittsburgh where he hit just .243 and managed only 27 home runs. It got no better for him as an Oriole where in three seasons he hit just .238 with only 31 home runs. By 2018 Pedro Alvarez was out of Major League Baseball as a player when the Miami Marlins signed him in December and cut him on March 25, 2019, when Alvarez opted out of his contract. This year he was hired by the Milwaukee Brewers serving as an assistant to the baseball operations team.
Clint Barmes – Barmes was what you might call a “journeyman” in baseball having played for four different teams in his 13-year professional baseball career. He began in Colorado as a member of the Rockies then played one season in Houston before spending three seasons in Pittsburgh. A career .245 hitter, Barmes left the Pirates for the San Diego Padres in 2014 playing two seasons before being signed by the Kansas City Royals in 2016 but never made it through spring training. He officially retired on May 23, 2016.
Marlon Byrd – For his short stay in Pittsburgh Marlon Byrd was rather popular among fans. His baseball career ended however in a fashion he is most certainly not proud of. On June 1, 2016, Byrd was suspended by Major League Baseball for 162 games due to a second positive PED test. At that point when his suspension began he let others know his career was over. Having endured 15 seasons in Major League Baseball, Marlon Byrd never found a true home with any one team. You can not count the number of teams he played for on both hands as his count is 11 different clubs (Phillies, Nationals, Rangers, Cubs, Red DSox, Mets, Pirates, Phillies, Reds, Giants, and the Indians). Still, Byrd had some decent seasons spending the most time in Philadelphia (five seasons).
Jason Grilli – Like Marlon Byrd before him, Jason Grilli was all over Major League Baseball. He nearly matches Byrd’s number of teams to have played for with nine (Pirates, Tigers, Rockies, Braves, Rangers, Marlins, Blue Jays, Angels, White Sox). But in his four years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Grilli saved 47 games and was a big-time stopper in that 2013 season with 33 saves and 74 Ks in 50 innings pitched. Grilli pitched his last game in 2017 while playing for the Texas Rangers.
Starling Marte – In a move that surely angered and disappointed Pirates fans, the front office traded Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2020 for cash and infielder Liover Peguero as well as pitcher Brennan Malone. Tragically, Marte lost his wife to a heart attack in May 2020 and then this year Marte lost his grandmother to a heart attack in the very same month his wife had passed, this a woman who essentially raised Marte from the age of nine. It was a shame to see the Pirates trade away Marte who left the ‘Burgh with a .287 batting average in eight seasons with the Bucs. A lifetime .289 hitter, Marte failed to make it through a full season in Arizona and was traded again to the Oakland A’s in August 2020. As a free agent last year, Marte signed with the New York Mets and finds himself this season on one of baseball’s best teams for 2022. This season Marte has played in 60 games and is hitting .278 at the time of this article.
Russell Martin – One of the heroes of that Reds wild card game was Russell Martin who blasted a Johnny Cueto pitch into the outfield stands for a home run after Cueto dropped the ball while prepping on the mound. Martin’s career began in Los Angeles as a Dodger but would travel to the east coast and sign with the New York Yankees where he would play two seasons in pinstripes. His next two seasons were with the Pirates which he abruptly left and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. Five years later Martin signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he finished his career in 2019.
Andrew McCutchen – Easily the most popular player on the team at the time and one of the most respected players in Pirates history is Andrew McCutchen. So when the Pirates traded him to the San Francisco Giants in January 2018, ‘Cutch left behind many angry Pirates fans. Not at him but the front office for trading such a great player. In nine seasons in Pittsburgh, ‘Cutch slammed 203 home runs and his average was .291. If you didn’t think a trade could affect a player think again. Since leaving the Pirates McCutchen was traded again this time to the Yankees by the San Francisco Giants where he played out the remainder of the season with the pinstripes appearing in just 25 games. In the off-season of 2018, ‘Cutch became a free agent and subsequently signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. When that contract ended last year, he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers where he is laying this season.
Justin Morneau – Morneau lasted 14 seasons in Major League Baseball but spent just one season in Pittsburgh. His career began in Minnesota and finished in Chicago with the White Sox. In between, he had the one season with the Pirates but also played for the Colorado Rockies. In the playoff season with the Bucs, Morneau played in just 25 games.
Travis Snider – Nicknamed “Lunchbox” for being known as a journeyman, Snider was popular among fans in Pittsburgh. Snider wore the colors of the Buccos for four seasons hitting for a .242 average while playing in Pittsburgh. A trade on January 27, 2015, sent Snider packing to the Baltimore Orioles with the Pirates receiving Stephen Tarpley and Steve Brault in return. However, the O’s released Snider seven months later and he signed a minor league deal with Pittsburgh. In October 2015 Snider opted to become a free agent and he signed with the Kansas City Royals the following January. Over the next five years, Snider could not find a permanent home and bounced around from the Royals to the Rangers, then with the New York Mets via trade. A free agent again in 2017, Snider could only find a job with the Long Island Ducks a team in the Atlantic League of Professional baseball in 2018 and he played one season there. On January 19, 2019, Snider signed a minor league deal with Arizona Diamondbacks. He became a free agent once again in November but the following January re-signed with Arizona until they released him in May. The Miami Marlin were next on Snider’s resume but they too released him in under a year. Last year the Atlanta Braves came calling and he played in 63 games for their minor league representative the Gwinnett Braves. After hitting just .174 the Braves released him. This past January Snider finally announced his retirement.
Neil Walker – Here we have the only Pittsburgh native on the 2013 roster. Neil Walker was born and raised in Pittsburgh and a graduate of Pine-Richland High School. The Pirates drafted the local kid in the first round of the 2004 Major League Baseball draft with the 11th pick overall. Like Andrew McCutchen before him, Neil Walker was immensely popular among Pirates fans. The first seven seasons of his career were with the Bucs. Incredibly and to the shock and anger of Pirates fans, Walker was dealt to the New York Mets for Jon Niese. Niese lasted less than one season with Pittsburgh before returning to the Mets and then being out of baseball for good when the season ended. As for Neil Walker, in seven seasons with the Pirates, he had a .272 batting average and slugged 418 home runs. Walker would be traded again in 2017 when the Mets made a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. A season later as a free agent, Neil Walker signed with the New York Yankees. As Walker kept signing one-year free agency deals, in 2019 he moved himself to the Miami Marlins where he again agreed to terms for just one season. As a free agent in 2019, Walker signed with the Philadelphia Phillies on January 22, 2020. The Phils sent him down to the minors in September which Walker refused to comply and he became a free agent again. The following April without a team, Neil Walker retired.
The interesting story about Neil Walker evolves not around him but his father Tom. In 1972 Walker was playing as a rookie for the Montreal Expos and was on a winter league team in Puerto Rico a teammate of the great Roberto Clemente. Learning about Clemente’s planned humanitarian plane trip to help survivors of an earthquake in Nicaragua, Walker approached Clemente and offered to assist and accompany him to Nicaragua. But #21 told him to stay behind and enjoy his New Year’s Eve. The rest is history as we all know Clemente perished on that plane when it crashed. Had Clemente agreed and Walker got on that plane, he too would have died and Neil Walker would never have been born.
Tony Watson – Watson is yet another player who got his start in MLB with Pittsburgh but failed to stay there. Once again, Pittsburgh Pirates are left scratching their heads as to what took place with this 2013 Pirates team. Just as what was done with McCutchen and Walker among others, Watson was traded away in 2017 this time the receiving team was the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Pirates trying to rebuild were handed, Angel German and Oneil Cruz. German never made it to the bigs and is now out of baseball. Cruz did appear in 12 games with the Pirates last season and is on the regular roster this season but is hitting just .211. For Watson, he became a free agent after his stint with the Dodgers and headed to the rival Giants. From there he signed with the Los Angels for part of one season before being traded back to San Francisco where he called it quests following the season.
Jason Grilli – Jason Grilli built a reputation as a flame-throwing relief pitcher whose highest save total for his career came in that 2013 season with the Pirates. Finishing with 33 saves that year, Grilli also played the most years of his career in Pittsburgh and Detroit (4). Like Marlon Byrd before him, Jason Grilli was all over Major League Baseball. He nearly matches Byrd’s number of teams to have played for with nine (Pirates, Tigers, Rockies, Braves, Rangers, Marlins, Blue Jays, Angels, White Sox). But in his four years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Grilli saved 47 games and was a big-time stopper in that 2013 season with 33 saves and 74 Ks in 50 innings pitched. Grilli pitched his last game in 2017 while playing for the Texas Rangers. In the end of his 79 career saves, 33 were with the Pirates.
Francisco Liriano – Another player from that 2013 team that is no longer playing in Major League Baseball is Liriano. He did play in 14 seasons, five of them with the Pirates. His career began in Minnesota and after his stint with the Pirates, he played for Toronto, Detroit, Houston, and the Chicago White Sox before quitting the game in 2019. His time with the Pirates, however, got off to a strange start when after inking a two-year deal with Pittsburgh, Liriano was goofing around with his kids during Christmas 2012 and in trying to scare them he broke his non-throwing arm. His contract was voided because of the injury but he later signed a new deal the following February. Liriano was one of the Bucs’ best pitchers in 2013 if not their ace finishing the season with a won/loss record of 16-8 and a nice .302 ERA. He also struck out 163 batters in 161 innings of work. Those 16 wins were the most of his career for one season. Once again another trade took place. Liriano was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays with Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez for one player…Drew Hutchinson. Hutchinson’s career never panned out with the Pirates as the trade was deemed a failure and the newly acquired pitcher spent more time with Pittsburgh’s farm teams than he did in the bigs in 2017 he became a free agent and for the next three seasons spent time on the rosters of the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, and with a minor league team in Milwaukee called the “Milkmen.: Hutchinson took one last stab at Major League Baseball in 2021 signing with the Detroit Tigers who sent him down to the minors and he spent only a limited time making appearances in the majors. This year he is still with Detroit but still in their farm system.
The players listed above all played in that wild card victory over Cincinnati and the boxscore from that Pirates victory appears below.