CINCINNATI -- Michael McKenry is movin' on up. Until a few days ago, the Pirates' nominal No. 2 catcher had spent his career buried in the lineup. Then on Wednesday, he was bumped up into the six-hole against a left-hander (the Cubs' Travis Wood).And on Saturday, he found himself in the heart of the batting order at No. 5, even with right-hander Mike Leake going for the Reds. Riding another hot streak (.423, with three homers and nine RBIs in his last eight games) will get you that. "He's hitting fifth because he's been hot. That sums it up right there," said manager Clint Hurdle. "And it hasn't been just against left-handed pitching. We'll see if there is more to it than that. I thought I'd faith-feed him a little bit more, and see if he can take care of it." Until that Wednesday start at Wrigley Field, McKenry had batted seventh or lower in 88 of his 91 starts for the Pirates in 2011-12. "It's awesome to see. More motivation, and definitely encouraging," McKenry said. "At the same time, it's humbling. But everyone in this clubhouse works their tail off. We earn whatever we get." Hurdle had one other reason for batting McKenry No. 5: He has Garrett Jones in front of him and Pedro Alvarez and Travis Snider behind him. That wedges a right-handed bat between all those lefties, lessening the target for the key setup southpaw in Cincinnati's bullpen, Sean Marshall.
Correia to start Wednesday, spelling rotation
CINCINNATI -- Kevin Correia, bumped from the Pirates' rotation to make room for newcomer Wandy Rodriguez, has been penciled in to make a spot start on Wednesday against Arizona.Correia has made one relief appearance since being reassigned to the bullpen following his last start on July 25. Last Sunday, he allowed four runs and five hits in a two-inning stint in Houston. The Bucs have embarked on a stretch of 20 straight playing days, through Aug. 23, and the start by Correia will give the regular members of the five-man rotation an extra day of rest. The Wednesday night game at PNC Park against the D-backs comes on Rodriguez's normal turn, so everyone, starting with him, is being pushed back a day. Correia will still be available out of the bullpen for the final two games of this series, on Saturday and Sunday. He is riding a streak of five consecutive wins. Manager Clint Hurdle left open the possibility of a second spot start being needed prior to that Aug. 23 break. Chris Leroux would be another candidate for that assignment. Following 14 relief appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis, Leroux has made two starts, allowing two runs in 11 innings. "He's getting close to being able to help us, if need be," Hurdle said of Leroux, who missed the first 2 1/2 months of the season recovering from a strained pectoral muscle. "I'm glad he's pitching more, getting deeper. If something happened here, he's a guy who could slide into the situation Brad Lincoln jumped into." Until going to Toronto last week in the deal for outfielder Travis Snider, Lincoln excelled as a long reliever and occasional starter.
Andrew McCutchen remained stuck on 14 stolen bases since June 19 when he was caught by Ryan Hanigan in Friday's game. McCutchen was 0-for-4 since, so clearly he has not been running much, either. The June-July offensive outbreak notwithstanding, how dependent are the Bucs on their outstanding pitching? In games in which they've scored only two or three runs, they have a remarkable record of 13-10. By comparison, the NL West-leading Giants, considered the most pitching-driven team in the league, are 13-17 under those conditions. Entering Saturday night's game, the Pirates had scored 44 percent of their runs (190 of 431) on their 118 home runs. Contrary to perception, that is quite ordinary, on par with the only two NL teams with more long balls. The Brewers had scored 43 percent of their runs on 128 homers, the Reds 42 percent on 123 homers. The Bucs were trying to continue quite a streak in Saturday night's game: They were 15-2 on the day for the season, including eight straight. Their last Saturday loss had come on June 2, 5-1 at Milwaukee.
"I've been hit a few times in the head, which probably doesn't surprise anyone here. Three times. Spent one night in the Roosevelt Head Trauma Center in New York City after getting hit in the head by Dwight Gooden in the Saturday Game of the Week."
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, giving his own perspective of the hazards of the up-and-in hard one.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.