Just hours after finding out that they would be without closer Matt Capps for the next two months the Pirates' offense stepped up and their bullpen delivered a message.
"We all know he is going to be out for a while," reliever Tyler Yates said after the game. "So we're all going to have to nail it down."
After watching starter John Van Benschoten get pulled after 2 1/3 ineffective innings, Pittsburgh's relievers reigned in the Reds' offense to carry the Pirates to a 9-5 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
"You lose two starters and a closer in the matter of a two-week period, we'll see what we're made of," manager John Russell said before the game.
For one night at least, the Bucs were made up of enough fight and fortitude to lessen the blow of Wednesday's news about Capps' injury.
They watched a four-run lead evaporate in less than two innings, only to reclaim it for good shortly after. Their bullpen, which had blown a combined three saves in the first two games of the series, pitched a total of 6 2/3 scoreless innings on Wednesday to ensure the club's second series win over Cincinnati this year.
"I think going in, everybody was disappointed in the situation," Russell said. "[Capps is] a big part of our bullpen, not only as a closer, but he's a big leader out there.
"These guys really stepped up, they'll continue on. Not that you can replace Matt, but it's a shot in the arm for these guys, because they know we'll really have to go to them."
The loss of Capps is just the latest obstacle for a Pirates team that has lost key players to injuries all season.
The team's top three hitters -- Jack Wilson, Ryan Doumit and Xavier Nady -- have all missed extensive time because of injuries this season. Two-fifths of the starting rotation is currently on the disabled list. Now, Capps has joined them.
On Wednesday, as it seemingly has after every crushing blow, the team once again responded with a never-say-die attitude.
It started with a brilliant performance by Denny Bautista, who relieved Van Benschoten in the third and allowed just two runners to reach base in a career-high 3 1/3 innings.
This came after Cincinnati had tallied five runs just 10 batters into the game.
"That was pretty big for us," Nady said of Bautista's performance. "It was big, especially with the way games have been going all series, back and forth."
It also has the Pirates looking like they may have gotten a steal in acquiring Bautista in a trade last week with the Tigers. Branded as someone with control problems, Bautista's command has been excellent since arriving in Pittsburgh.
"I feel pretty good with my shoulder now," said Bautista, who picked up his first win of the season. "I'm relaxed more."
Sean Burnett would follow Bautista, before John Grabow came on and struck out three in two innings. Yates then came in to close the door in the ninth, though by then, it as no longer a save situation.
"For some reason, that ninth inning, it's always a little harder to get those three outs," said Yates, who is likely to get some time in the closer's role in Capps' absence. "We'll still be able to handle it, even though Capps isn't down there."
All along, the bullpen was protecting a lead that Nady had provided with his second multihomer game of the season. After watching a four-run lead morph into a 5-4 deficit, Nady tied the game with a solo shot in the third.
Then, after hurting his ailing left shoulder as he fouled off a 1-0 pitch in the fifth, Nady took a cut at the next pitch he saw and sent it over the wall for a two-run blast to give the Pirates a 7-5 lead.
"As long as I can tolerate it, I'll be fine," Nady said of his shoulder. "Everybody was having good at-bats, getting on in front of me, and it's kind of contagious early on in a game."
The Pirates would add insurance runs on an Adam LaRoche triple in the seventh and a Jose Bautista homer in the ninth.
The offense had gotten off to an early start against Reds starter Daryl Thompson, knocking the Cincinnati righty for five consecutive hits to open the game.
But Van Benschoten, who was making the spot start in place of Ian Snell, would hand those runs right back by allowing five runs on three homers in the span of two innings. Once Russell watched him give up a one-out double in the third, the manager took the ball from the Cincinnati-area native.
"He was over the plate too much," Russell said. "In a ballpark like this, they're going to take advantage of it."
Assuming Snell and Phil Dumatrait return off the DL early next week, Van Benschoten will be headed back to Triple-A with looking for his first win as a starter since Sept. 10, 2004, still eluding him.
But the Pirates will move on, as they have all season, despite the seemingly unending bad breaks.
"Injuries are a part of the game, and we're going through a tough stretch right now," general manager Neal Huntington said. "They give a great effort and never say 'die.'"
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less