08/04/12 7:25 PM ET
Correia to start Wednesday, spelling rotation
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Hot-hitting McKenry climbing in Pirates' lineup
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.
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.