Less than 24 hours after learning that they'd be finishing the season without All-Star center fielder Nate McLouth, there was a palpable disappointment as the news continued to soak in. At the same time, there was the excitement of finally having highly-touted prospect Andrew McCutchen in a big league uniform.
And, by the end of the afternoon, there was the satisfaction of an 11-6 win over the Mets. The victory, which came in front of 20,683 at PNC Park, finished off a three-game sweep of New York.
"I think the emotions were tough from last night into today," said second baseman Freddy Sanchez, the only starting position player without a hit on Thursday. "But we are all professionals. By no means is it something where we don't feel like we can win or anything like that. It's done and over with. You move on. You move forward. And that's what we have to do now."
A Pirates offense that was expected to take a hit with the loss of their No. 3 hitter and team leader in home runs (nine) and RBIs (34), instead broke out quickly against Mets starter Mike Pelfrey and never let up.
"It was tough," manager John Russell said. "Nate was a big part of that clubhouse, big part of the team. I thought the guys responded very well. They lost a friend, but they know we still have something to complete here. They went out and played very good baseball today."
It started at the top with McCutchen, who had all sorts of firsts by the time this two-hour, 49-minute game came to an end.
He singled to lead off the first, keying an inning in which the Pirates scored four times and batted around. McCutchen's walk to lead off the fourth did the same, with nine batters coming to the plate and four crossing it before the inning ended.
"It was fun, just a fun experience," McCutchen said, shortly after receiving a shaving-cream pie to the face. "Especially to come up and get that hit out of the way your first at-bat. I was able to take a deep breath and say, 'Here we go.'"
That first RBI came with a two-out single in the seventh. And it took just minutes before he had his first stolen base as well.
"It was pretty much like a veteran," Andy LaRoche said of McCutchen's performance. "He just seems like another one of the guys right now. Hopefully he can step in and fill Nate's shoes, and hopefully he can help us win some ballgames."
But while McCutchen was undoubtedly the main reason the Pirates sold 3,300 walk-up tickets on Thursday morning, he was just a cog in an offensive unit that responded collectively to the adversity of Wednesday's news.
Of the team's 13 hits, shortstop Ramon Vazquez, who was a late addition after Jack Wilson was scratched with a stomach virus, had four of them. It was his seventh career four-hit game, his first as a Pirate.
Catcher Jason Jaramillo, just two days removed from hitting his first Major League home run, had the first four-RBI day of his now two-month-old big league career. Two-run singles in both the first and fourth capped those frames.
"It's just one of those things," said Jaramillo, who now has 12 RBIs this season. "I'm locked in, feeling good and confident. I'm a little more confident going up there knowing I've done it before."
Adam and Andy LaRoche each reached base and scored in both the first and fourth. Right fielder Brandon Moss drove in one in each of those frames. And flanking McCutchen in the batting order was fellow speedster Nyjer Morgan, who scored twice and drove in one with his two-hit day.
Not only did this explosion of offense mitigate -- at least for one day -- the loss of McLouth, but it also got Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf off the hook in what was one of his least-effective starts of the season. Ohlendorf lasted a season-short 4 1/3 innings and nearly gave back all the runs that his offense handed him early. Pittsburgh's early four-run lead shrank to one when the Mets batted around in the second.
"My fastball command was pretty bad," said Ohlendorf, whose five runs and three walks matched season highs. "That's what really hurt me. I got in bad counts, walked guys. Luckily, everybody else had a great game."
When Ohlendorf exited in the fifth with a four-run lead, however, the Pirates' bullpen halted any potential New York comeback. Four relievers combined to allow just one run on one hit. That included right-hander Steven Jackson, who was credited with his first Major League win only four days after making his debut.
"I just found out," Jackson said when asked about that first victory. "I'll be excited about it for a long time."
Still, Thursday's collective victory loomed larger than any personal performance, it seemed. It was at least a temporary escape from the emotions of a shocking sequence of events and a collective first step with this new look to the offense.
"With what happened with [losing] Nate, I think it was big for us as a team and the city," Andy LaRoche said. "It was a big win for all of us. No matter what happens with that whole trade and everything, we still have to go out there and compete."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less