Brian Giles (Trading Card DB)

May 3, 1999: Brian Giles hits 2 homers as Pirates’ 9th-inning rally overcomes Jeff Kent’s cycle

This article was written by John Fredland

Brian Giles (Trading Card DB)Brian Giles emerged as one of the National League’s top hitters after a 1998 trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates freed him from the Cleveland Indians’ talent-heavy roster. An early-season game in 1999 demonstrated his immediate impact. Upstaging San Francisco Giants slugger Jeff Kent’s five-hit cycle and teammate Jason Kendall’s five hits and two runners caught stealing, Giles clubbed two homers, drove in five runs, and spearheaded a ninth-inning rally against All-Star closer Robb Nen in Pittsburgh’s 9-8 win on May 3 at Three Rivers Stadium.

The Indians selected Giles from a Southern California high school in the June 1989 amateur draft. He reached the majors in September 1995 just as Cleveland was nearing its first pennant since 1954 and beginning a stretch of six postseason appearances in seven years.1

A cadre of All-Stars and seasoned veterans populated the Indians’ outfield,2 limiting the lefty-swinging Giles to a part-time role.3 He started no more than 103 games in a season in Cleveland from 1996 through 1998 and seldom played against left-handed pitching.4 Two injuries – a sprained ankle and swelling from a spider bite – derailed his promising 1998 campaign.5

Five weeks after losing the 1998 American League Championship Series to the New York Yankees, Cleveland general manager John Hart sought to fine-tune his bullpen and save money for star free agent Roberto Alomar. Seemingly glutted with outfielders and designated hitters,6 Hart traded Giles for lefty Ricardo Rincón, an effective reliever for Pittsburgh in 1997 and 1998.7

The Pirates had lost 25 of their final 30 games in 1998 to finish last in the NL Central Division.8 Only two major-league teams scored fewer runs, and nobody hit fewer homers.9 Giles represented a potential power upgrade. “Brian Giles gives us something we needed – offensive production,” general manager Cam Bonifay said.10

The 28-year-old Giles became Pittsburgh’s everyday third-place hitter, manning all three outfield slots in the season’s first month. He threw out a runner at home on Opening Day and had three hits, including a home run, three runs scored, and three RBIs in the next game.11 As of the Giants’ May visit to Pittsburgh, his seven home runs were more than half of the Pirates’ team total.12

NL West Division-leading San Francisco had been swept by the New York Mets in a three-game weekend series.13 Three-time MVP Barry Bonds was on the disabled list after surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow and repair his triceps tendon.14 Veteran Stan Javier handled left in Bonds’ absence.

Manager Dusty Baker’s lineup for Monday night’s series opener countered left-hander Chris Peters with the right-handed-batting Kent, usually the Giants’ second baseman, at first instead of lefty-swinging J.T. Snow.15 The 31-year-old Kent had been Giles’ Cleveland teammate in 1996. A top-five finisher in RBIs in the NL in 1997 and 1998, he had not homered or driven in a run since April 20, the day of Bonds’ surgery.

Kent’s RBI drought ended on the first pitch he saw from Peters, with a single to left that scored Javier with a first-inning unearned run.16 Pirates catcher Kendall limited the damage by throwing out Ramón Martínez attempting to steal third as Charlie Hayes struck out.17

San Francisco rookie righty Joe Nathan entered with wins in his first two major-league starts.18 Former Giant Mike Benjamin – added to Pittsburgh’s lineup 15 minutes before gametime because of regular shortstop Pat Meares’ sore hand19 – was safe on shortstop Rich Aurilia’s one-out throwing error in the first.

Giles, starting in right field, drove Nathan’s 1-and-1 pitch high over the fence in left center. His eighth home run of the season landed eight rows deep in Three Rivers Stadium’s brown outfield seats.20

Three pitches later, Kevin Young’s third homer of 1999 gave the Pirates back-to-back home runs. Kendall’s double made it three extra-base hits in a row, but he was stranded on second. Al Martin’s line drive over the right-field wall with two outs in the second was Pittsburgh’s third home run in an eight-batter span, extending the lead to 4-1.

The Giants struck back with a power show of their own. Martínez and Ellis Burks singled with one out in the third, and Kent hammered Peters’ pitch into the front row of outfield seats, over the out-of-town scoreboard and near the 375-foot sign in left center.21 One out later, Aurilia’s opposite-field home run to right put the Giants back ahead, 5-4.

Settling down after the early barrage, Nathan kept the Pirates scoreless in the third and fourth. Kendall, whose .327 average ranked fifth in the NL in 1998, was stranded after his two-out double in the third. Peters attempted to sacrifice after rookie second baseman Warren Morris walked in the fourth, but Kent fielded the bunt and threw to second to start a double play.

Another loud hit by Kent sparked the Giants against Peters in the fifth. Burks led off with an infield single, and Kent connected on a drive to right center. Center fielder Brant Brown, stationed in left center, chased down the ball as it bounded across the artificial turf and high-hopped the wall. Burks scored, and Kent punctuated his triple with a head-first slide.22 Hayes’ groundout brought in Kent, making it a 7-4 game.

Nathan capped his night with two more scoreless innings. The Pirates threatened in the sixth on Kendall’s leadoff single and Brown’s walk, but Aurilia turned Ed Sprague’s grounder into another double play, and Morris grounded out.

Marc Wilkins replaced Peters in the seventh,23 and Kendall recorded his second caught-stealing of the game, cutting down Burks at second with one out and Kent batting. Kent then smacked a liner past third. Martin corralled the ball before it reached the wall, but Kent hustled into second, again sliding head-first ahead of the throw.24 The sparse crowd of 11,099 applauded his cycle.25 Wilkins struck out Hayes looking for the third out.

Baker gave the ball to durable reliever Alan Embree after the seventh-inning stretch, and pinch-hitter Adrian Brown led off with a walk. Two groundouts later, Brown was on third when Giles batted against the left-handed Embree, a former Cleveland teammate.26 Giles ripped a liner toward first. Kent dove for a backhand catch, but the ball trickled off his glove into right.27 Brown scored, cutting the Giants’ lead to 7-5.

San Francisco restored its three-run advantage against Rich Loiselle in the eighth. Aurilia walked, took second on F.P. Santangelo’s sacrifice, and came home on Scott Servais’s double. Kendall’s fourth hit, a single off John Johnstone, came in the bottom of the inning, but Sprague hit into Pittsburgh’s third double play of the game to kill the rally.

With one out in the ninth, Kent singled, giving him the second five-hit game of his career.28 Hayes’ soft liner toward right hit Kent in the shoulder. Kent was called out; Hayes was credited with a hit. Kent and the Giants chuckled.29 They took a three-run lead to the bottom of the ninth.

Nen was in for the ninth. The 29-year-old right-hander had converted all nine of his save opportunities in 1999 and 13 in a row. As a Florida Marlin, he had saved two games against Giles’ Indians in the 1997 World Series; a 40-save season and All-Star selection followed a trade to San Francisco for 1998.30

Morris – whose walk-off homer won the 1996 College World Series championship for Louisiana State University31 – had just one home run in his first 70 big-league at-bats. He fell behind 1-and-2 before driving a leadoff homer over the wall in right-center.32

San Francisco still had a two-run lead, and Nen set down pinch-hitter Turner Ward for the first out. Martin singled and stole second, but Benjamin struck out. Giles represented the tying run. He got ahead in the count, 2-and-1.

“He [Nen] throws so hard that you try to be as selective as you can,” Giles said afterward. “I was sitting on a fastball, and it happened to be a slider.”33

Giles pulled it over the wall in right. The game was tied, 8-8.34

The end came soon afterward. Young walked on four pitches, and substitute pitching coach Dave Righetti visited Nen.35 Kendall lined the first pitch for a single and a five-hit game.36

Brant Brown took two strikes, then a ball. He bounced the next pitch up the middle, just past Nen’s glove.37 Young scored the winning run.

“Whether we’re down 20-0 or 1-0 in the ninth inning, we’re going to keep at it, and we went out and did it – against a closer who’s one of the best, if not the best,” Kendall said after the game.38

“It’s a long season and you have to stay on an even keel – but it was great,” Giles added.39

Giles went on to a breakout season, finishing in the NL’s Top 10 in home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. credits him with 6.7 Wins Above Replacement in 1999, fifth among NL position players. The Pirates’ 78-83 record in ’99 was their best until 2012. From 1999 through 2002, Giles’ 26.2 offensive WAR for Pittsburgh ranked seventh among major-league position players.40



This article was fact-checked by Bruce Slutsky and copy-edited by Len Levin. The author thanks SABR members James Forr, Vince Guerrieri, and Andrew Terrick for their research assistance. Gary Belleville and Kurt Blumenau provided insightful feedback on an earlier version of this article.

Photo credit: Brian Giles, Trading Card Database.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted and for pertinent information, including the box score and play-by-play. He also reviewed game coverage in the Oakland Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and San Jose Mercury newspapers.



1 The Indians lost the 1995 World Series to the Atlanta Braves in six games. They won the AL Central Division in 1996, 1997, and 1998, reaching the World Series again in 1997 but losing to the Florida Marlins in seven games. After trading Giles, the Indians won the AL Central Division in 1999 and 2001 but lost in the AL Division Series in both seasons.

2 Bob DiCesare, “Hits Don’t Equal Promotion for Giles,” Buffalo News, June 18, 1996: B1; Jim Ingraham, “Indians Are Happy to Be Left with Giles,” Willoughby (Ohio) News-Herald, February 20, 1997: 25; Terry Pluto, “The Quiet Man: Without Fanfare or Grousing, Giles Has Made His Way into the Big Leagues – And His Presence Felt,” Akron Beacon Journal, September 17, 1997: B5; Terry Pluto, “Giles Should Get a Chance to Play: Outfielder Can Hit And Field. What More Do You Want?,” Akron Beacon Journal, April 5, 1998: C5.

3 Paul Hoynes, “Giles Disappointed by Trade: But Understands Deal That Brought Reliever from Pirates,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 19, 1998: 1-D.

4 In 1998, for example, the Indians faced right-handed starters in 117 games, and Giles was in the starting lineup for 91 of those games. In Cleveland’s 45 games against lefty starters during that season, Giles started only four times.

5 Paul Meyer, “A Team With Bite: Newcomer Giles Believes the Pirates Will Sneak Up on Foes This Season,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 14, 1999: D-8. Giles appeared in only 112 games in 1998, but credits him with 4.0 Wins Above Replacement for that season, the fourth-highest total on the Indians’ team.

6 Sheldon Ocker, “Hart Looking to Future: Indians GM Believes That Cruz, Branyan and Others Are Ready to Make Move,” Akron Beacon Journal, September 8, 1998: C5.

7 From 1995 through 1998, Cleveland’s most-used left-handed reliever was Paul Assenmacher, who reached his 38th birthday during the 1998-99 offseason. Hart characterized the 29-year-old Rincón as a long-term replacement for Assenmacher. Newspaper coverage also linked the $4 million difference between Giles’ and Rincón’s contracts to Cleveland’s pursuit of Alomar, the former Baltimore Oriole and future Hall of Famer who signed a four-year contract with the Indians on November 24, six days after the trade with Pittsburgh. Hoynes, “Giles Disappointed by Trade”; Paul Hoynes, “Strong Family Bond Secured Alomar Deal,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 25, 1998: 1-D.

8 The Pirates ended the 1998 season on an eight-game losing streak. Paul Meyer, “Summer Bummer: There Was No Magic, Only Disappointment, for ’98 Pirates,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 4, 1998: D-3.

9 Only the first-year expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays (620 runs) and the Montreal Expos (644 runs) scored fewer than the Pirates’ 650 runs. Pittsburgh’s 107 home runs were four fewer than the Devil Rays.

10 Paul Meyer, Pirates Trade Rincon: Deal for Indians’ Giles Makes Crowd in Outfield,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 19, 1998: D-1.

11 Paul Meyer, “Rapid Recovery: Schmidt Dazzles for 7, Giles Delivers in Clutch to Bury Opener Miseries,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 7, 1999: C-1; Ron Cook, “Fans Are Going to Love Tough-As-Nails Giles,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 12, 1999: B-1.

12 Through 23 games, the Pirates had 13 home runs as a team.

13 Mark Saxon, “Giants Have Seen Too Much of N.Y.: More Errors And Stranded Runners Lead to Sweep,” Oakland Tribune, May 3, 1999: SPORTS-1.

14 Bonds returned to the Giants on June 9, seven weeks after his surgery. It was later alleged that Bonds believed the injuries had been caused by steroid use. Jeffri Chadiha, “Giants: One for All And All for Won,” San Francisco Examiner, April 21, 1999: C-1; John Shea, “Barry’s Back, But Not Timing: Slugger Looks Like a Guy Who’s Been off Seven Weeks in Loss to Angels,” San Francisco Examiner, June 10, 1999: B-1; Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, “BALCO Case: Bonds’ Former Girlfriend Testifies,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2005: A1.

15 Snow, a switch-hitter from his major-league debut in 1992, began batting exclusively left-handed in 1999. Mark Saxon, “After Facing Lefty, Snow Gets Grilled: Giant’s Batting Experiment Draws Much Attention,” Oakland Tribune, March 6, 1999: SPORTS-5.

16 ESPN SportsCenter Baseball Highlights, “1999 MLB Highlights May 3,” YouTube video (SW561), 12:55, accessed April 19, 2024,

17 Hayes had played for the Pirates during the 1996 season before getting traded to the Yankees on August 31. He returned to San Francisco, his original major-league organization, in a trade with New York after the 1997 season.

18 The Giants had promoted the 24-year-old Nathan, who began his professional career as a shortstop, when Opening Day starter Mark Gardner was sidelined with a shoulder injury. In beating the Florida Marlins and Montreal Expos, Nathan had allowed just two runs in 15 innings. John Shea, “A Red-Hot Debut for Giants’ Nathan: Former Shortstop Stifles Marlins with 97-MPH Fastball,” San Francisco Examiner, April 22, 1999: C-1.

19 Joe Rutter, “Cordova Pitches Second Rehab Start with Curve,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 4, 1999: C2.

20 Fox Sports Pittsburgh TV Broadcast, “Brian Giles’ 2-HR, 5-RBI Game,”, 2:01, accessed April 20, 2024,

21 ESPN SportsCenter Baseball Highlights.

22 ESPN SportsCenter Baseball Highlights.

23 Wilkins, who had pitched in 133 games for the Pirates from 1996 through 1998, had rotator cuff surgery in September 1998 and was making his first major-league appearance since May 22, 1998. Joe Rutter, “Wilkins Not in on Kent’s Milestone at the Plate,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 5, 1999: D2.

24 ESPN SportsCenter Baseball Highlights.

25 Rutter, “Wilkins Not In on Kent’s Milestone at the Plate”; Henry Schulman, “Pirates Stun Giants Despite Kent’s Cycle,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 4, 1999: E1. It was the first Giants’ cycle since Robby Thompson in 1991 and first at Three Rivers Stadium since Joe Torre of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. Ross McKeon, “Giants Sagging in the Middle: Thompson’s Rare Cycle Feat Erased by Bullpen Failure,” San Francisco Examiner, April 23, 1991: C-1; Jeff Samuels, “Bucs Lambasted, 15-4,” Pittsburgh Press, June 28, 1973: 40.

26 The Indians selected Embree in the fifth round of the June 1989 draft, 12 rounds before Giles. Embree debuted with Cleveland in 1992 and was traded to the Braves in March 1997, in the four-player deal that also sent Kenny Lofton to Atlanta and brought David Justice and Marquis Grissom to the Indians.

27 Fox Sports Pittsburgh TV Broadcast.

28 Kent had a five-hit game against the Houston Astros in 1998. Later in the 1999 season, on June 12, he had five hits against the Seattle Mariners. Kent was selected as NL MVP in 2000. In 17 major-league seasons with six clubs, he hit .290 with 377 home runs.

29 Mark Gonzales, “Pirates Score 4 off Nen,” San Jose Mercury News, May 4, 1999: 1D.

30 The Marlins traded Nen to the Giants for three minor-league players on November 18, 1997, less than a month after winning the World Series. John Shea, “Giants Acquire Nen to Be Their Closer: Marlin Replaces Beck, Hernandez,” Oakland Tribune, November 19, 1997: D-8.

31 Dave Moormann, “Morris’ Dream Comes True As Tigers Capture CWS Title,” Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Advocate, June 9, 1996: 1C.

32 Morris hit .288 with 15 home runs and 73 RBIs in 1999. He finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, behind Scott Williamson of the Cincinnati Reds and Preston Wilson of the Marlins.

33 Paul Meyer, “Pirates KO Giants with Four-Run 9th: Giles 2nd HR Ties It, Brown’s Hit Wins It, 9-8,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 4, 1999: B-5.

34 Fox Sports Pittsburgh TV Broadcast.

35 Righetti, a Giants’ roving pitching instructor in 1999, was serving as pitching coach with Ron Perranoski away for his mother’s illness. Mark Gonzales, “Perranoski’s Mom Suffers Stroke,” San Jose Mercury News, May 4, 1999: 5D. Righetti replaced Perranoski as pitching coach in 2000 and held the position through 2017, a period of four pennants and three World Series championships in San Francisco.

36 Kendall had five hits in five at-bats, but no runs scored or RBIs. According to Stathead, through the 2023 season only 20 players since 1900 have had five hits in a nine-inning game without scoring or driving in a run. Besides Kendall, the group includes two other Pirates: Bill Virdon in 1956 and Matty Alou in 1970. On July 4, 1999, Kendall was batting .332 when he broke his ankle attempting to bunt for a hit against the Milwaukee Brewers; the injury ended his season. In his 15-season major-league career, Kendall batted .288 for five clubs. Paul Meyer, “Broken Hearts: Kendall’s Gruesome Injury Stuns Teammates,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 5, 1999: B-1.

37 ESPN SportsCenter Baseball Highlights.

38 Meyer, “Pirates KO Giants with Four-Run 9th.” Nen made the NL All-Star team again in 1999 and was fifth in the NL with 37 saves. He saved 314 games in his 10-season major-league career.

39 Alan Robinson (Associated Press), “Battlin’ Bucs: Big Rally Cuts Down Giants,” Indiana (Pennsylvania) Gazette, May 4, 1999: 12.

40 The Pirates traded Giles to the San Diego Padres for three players, including Jason Bay and Óliver Pérez, in August 2003. He finished his career with seven seasons in San Diego. Giles batted .291 with 287 home runs in 15 big-league seasons.

Additional Stats

Pittsburgh Pirates 9
San Francisco Giants 8

Three Rivers Stadium
Pittsburgh, PA


Box Score + PBP:

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