This is our sixth Game Rewind article, where we look back at a noteworthy game in Pittsburgh Pirates history. The first two Game Rewind articles featured Willie Stargell’s debut and a big game from Al Oliver and the 1971 Pirates. The third article covered a game that happened 60 years ago. In the next one we went all the way back to the season opener of the 1909 season to see how the Pirates began their first World Series winning season. Then we looked at an early season game from a pennant winning team. Today we check out a noteworthy game against the Cleveland Indians during the 1999 season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates endured a 20-year streak without a winning record. The streak was almost snapped twice in the late-90s, once courtesy of the Freak Show team in 1997. They finished 79-83. Two years later, the 1999 team gave .500 a run too, falling five games short at the end. In the middle of that season, the Pirates held a 44-45 record. The 56-33 Cleveland Indians were in town, ready to play a Saturday, July 17th afternoon game at Three Rivers Stadium in front of 43,299 fans. As you can imagine, there were plenty of out-of-town fans in attendance.
The Pirates had Kris Benson on the mound, taking on Charles Nagy, who had already picked up 11 wins at that point. The Indians lineup that day included Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and David Justice in the first six spots. The Pirates didn’t quite matchup well, but no one told their cleanup hitter that day.
After three scoreless innings by Benson, he led off the bottom of the third with a single. The Pirates would tack on four more singles in the inning, all of them grounders that found a hole in the infield. The last hit by Warren Morris was a low liner to third base, which brought in a pair. After three innings, it was a 3-0 ballgame.
The Indians cut the lead with a two-run double by David Justice in the fourth inning. That close score didn’t last long. Al Martin hit a two-run homer in the fourth, then three batters later, Kevin Young added a two-run homer to make it a 7-2 game.
The Indians came back in the sixth with a three-run homer from Jim Thome, followed immediately by a solo homer from David Justice. Scott Sauerbeck allowed both homers and they were the first two batters he faced. Eight pitches after coming into a 7-2 game, the Pirates were now barely holding onto the lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, lead-off hitter Al Martin reached on a single against reliever Ricardo Rincon. Adrian Brown followed with a line drive single, then Rincon retired the player he was traded for eight months earlier, getting Brian Giles to fly out to center field. The brought in reliever Steve Reed to face cleanup hitter Kevin Young. On a 2-2 pitch, Young hit a three-run homer, giving him two homers and five RBIs on the day. The Pirates led 10-6 at that point, but they weren’t done that inning.
With two outs, Warren Morris walked, then Mike Benjamin singled. That brought up catcher Chris Tremie, who was making his first start with the Pirates. He singled to make it an 11-6 game. That ended up being the only hit Tremie collected with the Pirates, and also his last big league hit.
In the seventh inning after the first two men reached base, Jason Christiansen came into the game. He would give up an RBI single to Manny Ramirez, but he limited the damage by striking out Alomar, Thome and Justice.
The Pirates got that run back immediately, as Al Martin hit his second homer of the game. This one came off of Dwight Gooden, who just entered the game.
The top of the eighth was nearly a disaster for the Pirates. Cleveland put up a run each of off three different pitchers. The second run scored on an error by Warren Morris, which also made the third run unearned. The back-and-forth battle continued, as a Cleveland error in the eighth led to another run for the Pirates.
Holding a three-run lead, Mike Williams made things interesting in the ninth. After retiring the first two batters, he gave up back-to-back singles, bringing up Kenny Lofton as the tying run. Lofton hit a long flyball to the left-center gap, but Brian Giles hauled it in for the final out. The Buccos won 13-10 and there was no doubt about it. They moved to 45-45 on the season.
Kevin Young was 3-for-5 with three runs scored and five RBIs. Al Martin went 3-for-6 with three runs scored and three RBIs. Adrian Brown went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. The game took 3:41 to play.
Here’s the boxscore courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.