Pirates storm back to beat Reds, complete sweep
Being a bench player is difficult enough, but it's even worse being a backup catcher.
The catcher is involved in every play, every pitch. He has to discern every pitcher, dissect every batter, direct every defensive alignment. Try doing all that when you only start once a week — oh, and by the way, be ready to hit, too.
Michael McKenry can handle all that. Now, if only he could get his curtain-call routine down pat.
“I hope we all get a ton of them this year,” McKenry said. “That'll mean good things are happening.”
On Sunday, in just his second start of the season, McKenry blasted a pair of home runs to spark the Pirates to a 10-7 comeback win against the Cincinnati Reds. The improbable victory — the Pirates shrugged off a five-run deficit and scored all of their runs in the seventh and eighth innings — completed a three-game sweep at PNC Park.
McKenry's solo shot in the seventh was the Pirates' first run. In the eighth, he cracked a two-run homer to ignite a six-run outburst. It was his first two-homer game in the big leagues.
“I did it (in the minors) a week or two before I got traded to Pittsburgh in ... when was that, 2010? 2011?” McKenry said.
It was 2011, but you can't blame McKenry for feeling like he's been with the Pirates much longer.
“Hey, I like it here,” he said.
The city likes him, too. After McKenry's two-run shot, the crowd of 19,239 demanded a curtain call. McKenry tried to hold back, but Neil Walker nudged him forward to bask in the applause.
“He deserved it,” Walker said. “He's the beloved ‘Fort' McKenry. He came up big for us, so he deserved that curtain call.”
It was the second time McKenry had to be goaded to go to the top step of the dugout. On July 8, 2011, less than a month after he joined the Pirates, McKenry hit his first homer — a game-winning, three-run shot off Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol.
“Walk's the one who pushed me out then, and it was the same thing today — the Pittsburgh guy,” McKenry said. “It shows what kind of teammates I have and what kind of people there are here in Pittsburgh. It's really special.”
The Reds built an early 5-0 lead against right-hander Phil Irwin, who had a rocky major league debut. Right-hander Mat Latos blanked the Pirates until the seventh, when they scored four runs.
The Reds got a run back in the eighth off reliever Jared Hughes (1-0). But in the bottom of the inning, against right-handed reliever Jonathan Broxton (0-1), Pedro Alvarez walked and McKenry struck again to tie it at 6.
With one out, Jose Tabata walked. Starling Marte hit a towering shot that hugged the left-field line and barely stayed fair. That gave the Pirates their first lead, 8-6.
“He's got that kind of power,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We thought it was fair. By how much was it fair? Not by much, you say? Good. It was fair enough.”
After hitting just three home runs over the previous 102 innings, the Pirates knocked out three in a span of four outs.
“We all knew we'd hit some more,” Hurdle said. “They say things are contagious in this game, right? Home runs were contagious for us today.”
It was only the second time in his nine-year career that Broxton allowed two home runs in a game.
Pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, pinch hitting for Hughes, walked on five pitches. Andrew McCutchen singled. Gaby Sanchez hit a sacrifice fly.
“I've never seen Broxton that wild,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “Every homer was preceded by a walk. That was a rough day for all of us. Roughest one in a long time.”
The Reds finally yanked Broxton and called on flamethrower Aroldis Chapman.
Big deal. Walker stroked an RBI single to center. The six runs completed the rally and are tied for the most Broxton has allowed in a game.