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Pirates' McKenry comes up big in rare start

The SportsXchange

Most baseball executives say finding a quality No. 2 backstop is difficult.

That is why the Pirates feel fortunate to have Michael McKenry.

Even following an offseason in which the Pirates' biggest acquisition was signing free-agent catcher Russell Martin to a two-year, $17 million contract, McKenry figures to make an impact this season.

McKenry made his presence felt Sunday in just his second start of the year as the first two-home run game of his four-year career helped the Pirates rally from a late five-run deficit to beat the Cincinnati Reds 10-7.

McKenry's first home run of the season led off the seventh inning and broke up Mat Latos' shutout bid, drawing the Pirates to 5-1. An inning later, McKenry's two-run shot off Jonathan Broxton tied the game at 6-6 and sparked a six-run inning against the Reds' primary set-up reliever.

"You just don't expect to do that kind of damage against quality pitchers like Latos and Broxton," McKenry said. "You're not going to get much off those guys. ... I never expected to hit home runs off both of them in the same game."

It shouldn't have been a complete surprise considering what McKenry did last year in his first full major-league season while splitting time behind the plate with Rod Barajas. In 88 games, McKenry hit .233 with 12 home runs.

"He works as hard as anyone on the team and he always stays prepared," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

McKenry's performance Sunday was so impressive that he got something that is a rarity for a backup catcher -- a curtain call from the PNC Park crowd -- following his second homer.

"(Second baseman) Neil Walker pushed me out of the dugout and told me to go to tip my cap," McKenry said. "It was special. It's good to have good teammates who want you to get recognized and it's great to have the fans be so supportive and cheer that hard for you. A guy in my position, you just don't expect it."
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