Ranking the Top 10 Clutch Performances in Pittsburgh Pirates History

Kyle StanzelCorrespondent IIIAugust 15, 2012

Ranking the Top 10 Clutch Performances in Pittsburgh Pirates History

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates franchise is one of the more decorated in professional baseball and the Steel City has seen its team come through in some big moments.

    While most fans of this generation know the Pirates for their record-breaking streak of losing seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates are as clutch a team as there is in baseball history.

    With the team finally showing some promise in 2012, there is hope amongst the Pirates faithful that they will once again have the opportunity to see their team play on the sport's biggest stage in October.

    Here is a look back at the 10 most clutch performances in the illustrious history of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

10) Brian Giles' Walk-Off Grand Slam Against Billy Wagner, 07/28/2001

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    While this moment may have occurred right smack in the middle of the Pirates' record consecutive losing seasons streak, it is still one of the more clutch moments in the franchise's history.

    The Pirates trailed the Astros 8-2 with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the ninth inning. What followed is surely the greatest single game comeback in Pirates history.

    The Pirates would score three runs to make the game 8-5 and with the bases loaded and All-Star closer Billy Wagner on the mound, Brian Giles stepped to the plate.

    Giles took the second pitch he saw from Wagner and launched a laser beam over the Clemente Wall and sent the Pirates to victory with a walk-off grand slam.

    The comeback tied a National League record for most runs with two outs in the ninth inning, and it was a shining moment in an otherwise disappointing stretch in Pirates history.

9) Jimmy Sebring Leads Pirates to Win in 1st World Series Game, 10/01/1903

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    In 1903, the first ever World Series pitted the Pittsburgh Pirates against the then Boston Americans.

    In the first World Series game in baseball history, the Pirates defeated the Americans 7-3 thanks to an outstanding day at the plate from outfielder Jimmy Sebring.

    Sebring launched a home run and drove in four runs to lead the Pirates to a historic victory.

    The Pirates would end up losing the series in eight games, but Pittsburgh can take pride in winning the first ever World Series game thanks to Jimmy Sebring.

8) John Candelaria and Kent Tekulve in 1979 World Series Game 6, 10/16/1979

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    Attempting to make another historic World Series comeback from being down three games to one, the Pirates sent John Candelaria to the hill to try and get them to Game 7.

    The "Candy Man" did not disappoint, as he shut down the Orioles for six innings before handing the ball over to reliever Kent Tekulve.

    Tekulve picked up right where Candelaria left off, allowing just one hit and striking out four batters over the final three innings of the game.

    The Pirates' bats finally got to Jim Palmer in the seventh inning, breaking a scoreless tie and sending 1970 World Series to a decisive Game 7. 

7) Doug Drabek Wins Cy Young Award, 1990

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    While 1990 saw the Pirates lose to the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS, it gave us perhaps the greatest pitching season the franchise has ever seen.

    While Pittsburgh has been a franchise known for its outstanding position players over the years, the pitching hasn't been quite as impressive.

    Doug Drabek changed that when he went 22-6 with a 2.76 ERA and took home the Cy Young Award.

    He became the first Pirate to win the award since 1960, and it still stands to this day as the most impressive regular-season pitching performance in franchise history.

6) Kiki Cuyler's Game-Winning Double in Game 7 of 1925 World Series, 10/15/1925

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    With Hall of Famer Walter Johnson on the hill against the Pirates in Game 7 of the 1925 World Series, the odds were stacked against the young Pittsburgh team.

    The Pirates were able to get to Johnson, but the game was still tied 7-7 when Kiki Cuyler came to bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth.

    Cuyler came through big in the clutch and smaked a ground-rule double off the 417-game winner and the Pirates took a 9-7 lead.

    They would go on to win the game and their second World Series title in what was one of the more exciting and unheralded World Series in baseball history.

5) Roberto Clemente Gets 3,000th Hit, 09/30/1972

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    Having already led the Pirates to two World Series titles, Roberto Clemente's quest for his legendary 3,000th hit took him to the final game of the 1972 regular season against the New York Mets.

    Clemente doubled off Jon Matlack to become just the 11th player at that time to reach the 3,000-hit milestone.

    Sadly, what makes this such a clutch moment in Pirates history is that this would be the final regular season at-bat of Clemente's career.

    Clemente died later that offseason in a plane crash while attempting to deliver relief supplies to Nicaragua after the country was ravaged by an earthquake.

    Never was there a player more deserving of a milestone as impressive as 3,000 hits, and it is only fitting that Clemente would accomplish it in such clutch fashion.

4) Steve Blass Completes Game 7 of 1971 World Series, 10/17/1971

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    After losing a heartbreaking one-run ballgame in Game 6 of the 1971 World Series, the Pirates called upon 29-year-old starting pitcher Steve Blass to take the mound in Game 7.

    Blass did not disappoint, hurling a complete game and giving up just one run while striking out five Baltimore Orioles.

    The Pirates won the game 2-1, and took their fourth World Series Championship behind the mastery of Blass and an MVP performance from Roberto Clemente.

    While Blass would be out of baseball just a few years later due to a streak of wildness, his World Series legacy is what lives on in the minds of Pittsburgh fans today.

3) Willie Stargell's Home Run in Game 7 of 1979 World Series, 10/17/1979

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    The "We Are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates were led by star first baseman Willie "Pops" Stargell in the 1979 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

    Already with a single and a double in Game 7 at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, Stargell came up to bat in the sixth inning with a runner on and the Pirates trailing 1-0.

    With his third hit of the ballgame, "Pops" crushed a pitch from Scott McGregor to right field for his third home run of the Series and put the Bucs in front 2-1.

    Pittsburgh would take the game 4-1 and Stargell would finish with four hits and the World Series MVP award.

2) Babe Adams Shutout in Game 7 of 1909 World Series, 10/16/1909

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    There aren't many better World Series pitching performances than the one that Babe Adams put on for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1909.

    The fact that Adams was a rookie trying to deliver the Pirates their first ever World Series title makes the feat that much more impressive.

    After wins in Game 1 and Game 5 of the Series, Adams took the mound in Game 7 and dominated the Detroit Tigers and superstar Ty Cobb. His final line showed just six hits and zero runs in a complete game shutout.

    Adams would finish the 1909 Series with a 3-0 record and a 1.33 ERA and would have been the obvious choice for World Series MVP had the award been given back then. 

1) Bill Mazeroski Home Run in Game 7 of 1960 World Series, 10/13/1960

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    Without a doubt the greatest swing of the bat in Pittsburgh Pirates history.

    Known for his glove more than his bat, Bill Mazeroski would cement his place in baseball lore when he smashed a pitch from the New York Yankees' Ralph Terry over the left-field wall at Forbes Field.

    It was Mazeroski's second homer of the series and is still to this day the only walk-off home run in Game 7 of a World Series ever.

    Despite being outscored by the Yankees 55-27 in the series, the Pirates won their third World Series thanks to arguably the biggest clutch home run in baseball history.