McKenry rewards Pirates' faith in him

Michael McKenry

Michael McKenry might have looked on the outs with the Pirates as recently as the weekend. But ever since Pittsburgh's starting catcher, Rod Barajas, went down with a knee bruise Monday, McKenry has raised his game to new heights.

In three majestic games, he's gone 7-for-10 with a double, two home runs and six RBI. In the 11-7 victory Wednesday night at Philadelphia, he blasted a three-run home run that gave the Pirates the lead for good.

"I've been working religiously on my swing, and it's starting to show," McKenry said. "They showed the faith in me be sticking by me, and I'm just trying to help the team win."

McKenry's average this week alone has soared from .187 to .241.

His timing probably was pretty good. In addition to Barajas going down, the Pirates strikingly cleared space on their 40-man roster to promote Eric Fryer from Triple-A Indianapolis for what they knew would be just a handful of days. It was at least within the realm of possibility that McKenry, given his weak bat, could be out of the equation soon.

But he rediscovered his compact swing and resumed hitting the ball with authority. Even one of his outs these last three days would have been a clear home run had the wind not blown it back into play. Philadelphia's left fielder actually had to sprint back, then sprint forward to catch it.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP James McDonald continued one of the great starts for a pitcher in Pittsburgh's 126-year history: He overcame a two-run first inning Wednesday to hold the Phillies to only two more runs over his 5 2/3 innings in the Pirates' 11-7 victory at Philadelphia. "James did a nice job of settling us down," manager Clint Hurdle said. McDonald had been the only Pittsburgh pitcher in the modern era -- 1900 and onward -- to allow three or fewer runs in each of his first 14 starts, but that streak ended.

--INF/OF Drew Sutton, acquired over the weekend through waivers, started in left field and singled, doubled and walked. Sutton made an immediate impression in his debut Tuesday with a pinch-hit double. The Pirates are in dire need of offense from the corner outfield spots.

--RHP Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft, was diagnosed with a bruised jaw Wednesday after being struck in the head by a line drive the previous night in Harrisburg, Pa., while pitching for Double-A Altoona. Cole also was given a CT scan and X-rays, neither of which detected any issues. He resumed regular activity immediately.

--INF/OF Oscar Tejeda was claimed off waivers from the Red Sox and assigned to Altoona. Tejeda, 22, was batting .262 with five home runs and 31 RBI for Boston's Double-A Portland affiliate. To clear 40-man roster space, the Pirates designated for assignment LHP Doug Slaten, who had been demoted from Pittsburgh to Triple-A Indianapolis the previous day.

--OF Starling Marte, SS Jordy Mercer and LHP Rudy Owens, the Pirates' top prospects at Indianapolis, were named to the International League All-Star Game. All three are expected in Pittsburgh at some point this season. Mercer just spent a month with the Pirates.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Times the Pirates' catchers -- Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry -- have caught runners trying to steal, out of 49 attempts. McKenry had the sixth Wednesday night

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is something that, plain and simple, hurts the Pirates and other teams like them." -- Super-agent Scott Boras, on Major League Baseball's new draft signing limits, in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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