Not long before the Pirates took the field at PNC Park last night, there had been some clubhouse chatter about what they might expect.
Not from the New York Yankees.
Not even from the historical implications of the Yankees' first visit to Pittsburgh in 48 years.
- Game: Pirates vs. New York Yankees, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (4-4, 3.91) vs. RHP Joba Chamberlain (1-2, 2.36).
- Key matchup: Everyone vs. the colorful, flamethrowing Chamberlain. New York has won three of his four starts since converting him from relief, and he has a 2.46 ERA in that span.
- Of note: The Pirates' .992 fielding percentage so far this month -- six errors -- is No. 1 in Major League Baseball.
No, they were talking about, of all things, the crowd.
"It's one of those things where we didn't really know what kind of mob to expect," left fielder Jason Bay would recall later. "Would they be for us? Would they be for the Yankees?"
"Well, we found out."
They surely did, as the hanging-over-the-railings gathering of 38,867 was dominantly in favor of the home team and, most important, was given ample cause to cheer and chant all through the 12-5 rout last night: Jose Bautista and Ryan Doumit each homered as part of a relentless 19-hit attack.
By the ninth inning, in a scene that can be compared to precious few this decade, the third-largest crowd since PNC opened stood spontaneously and roared in unison, "Let's go Bucs!" in search of the final out.
"Outstanding!" center fielder Nate McLouth said. "And did you see that nobody left? It was 12-3, and they were still there for us."
"And loud!" reliever Damaso Marte chimed in.
Thing is, as some players pointed out, many fans probably needed to be won over. Fifteen years of losing can have that effect.
"I don't know how people might have felt about us, what kind of chance they thought we had to be competitive with those guys," shortstop Jack Wilson said. "And I think that's why it was good for us to come out and swing the bats well."
Swing they did: The Pirates tied a 2008 high for hits, including six doubles and a triple, and got three-hit games from Doumit, Freddy Sanchez and Adam LaRoche. That ran their season run total to 382, fifth-highest in Major League Baseball.
Even the Yankees, who had flicked away the Pirates like fleas in taking the teams' first six interleague meetings, had gotten wind of that.
Asked if he was surprised by the output, New York manager Joe Girardi replied, "Oh, no. This club has scored a lot of runs. We knew that coming in."
The atmosphere was set 10 minutes before game time, when Bill Mazeroski threw the ceremonial first pitch, but only after the video board replayed his legendary home run that beat the Yankees in the 1960 World Series and, then, only after Mazeroski paused during a long, loud ovation.
"I'll tell you, Pittsburgh has gotten into this Yankees thing in a big way," Mazeroski said.
It took all of one pitch from New York starter Darrell Rasner to set the more tangible tone, with McLouth drilling a double to the fence in right-center. A wild pitch and Sanchez's single brought him home, Sanchez taking an extra base on an error. One out later, LaRoche's liner into center made it 2-0.
Bay's double into the North Side Notch added a run in the third.
The Yankees got one off Tom Gorzelanny in the fourth, but the Pirates then poured it on ...
Doug Mientkiewicz started the fourth with a single, and Bautista sent a 1-2 Rasner changeup into the bleachers to make it 5-1. It was Bautista's ninth home run, fifth in nine games.
With two outs in the fifth, Doumit, back after missing five games to a concussion, lined a 1-0 fastball into the seats beyond right-center. It was his 10th home run, fifth in eight games. Next, LaRoche tripled and scored on a wild pitch. It was 7-1.
"They hit the ball hard every time I got it up," Rasner said after seven runs in his five innings. "Those guys looked very comfortable against me."
New York scored twice off Gorzelanny in the sixth to instill a little suspense, but Tyler Yates and Marte delivered scoreless relief while LaRoche's RBI single and Mientkiewicz's sacrifice fly in the seventh added two, and back-to-back RBI doubles by Nyjer Morgan and Doumit in the eighth piled on.
Gorzelanny had a bizarre start but, officially, a quality one: He held the Yankees to three runs over six innings despite six hits and five walks. Only 47 of 99 pitches were strikes, a stunningly low ratio.
Still, he improved to 6-6, leading the staff in victories.
"I made some good pitches at the right time," Gorzelanny said.
The only downer: Bay left the game after the seventh inning with slight tightness in the groin. But he is not expected to miss any time.
"This was fun," Doumit said. "We'd like to see more of this kind of crowd. But, obviously, we've got to earn that. We've got to keep winning, keep earning that respect."
That might take time, some would suggest. An article in the New York Post yesterday described the Pirates as "pitiful."
"There could be some crow eaten over that one," Doumit said.
"We have a lot of respect for the Yankees, and we want to be where they are," McLouth said. "But we're big-leaguers, too."
Still, the Pirates seemed to be far from crowing after this one. Even as there was an air of confidence afterward, they also displayed a clear realization that being three games under .500, no matter how exuberantly one outcome was received, was no cause for bravado.
As Wilson put it, "Enjoy it tonight. We've got to get back to work tomorrow."
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at email@example.com .