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Pirates rally to beat Reds behind McKenry's two homers

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Manager Clint Hurdle and star center fielder Andrew McCutchen had the same answer when asked to explain the Pittsburgh Pirates' improbable victory on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park.

"That's baseball."

While it may seem simplistic, it might be the only way to break down exactly how the Pirates rallied to beat the Cincinnati Reds 10-7.

The Pirates had hit just three home runs in their first 11 2/3 games this season. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, they went deep three times in two innings to rally from a 5-0 deficit.

Backup catcher Michael McKenry homered twice, and Starling Marte's two-run shot down the left-field line broke a tie and keyed a six-run eighth inning against Jonathan Broxton.

The Pirates have won five of six games following a 1-5 start to even their record at 6-6. The Reds lost their fifth straight game, their longest skid since losing five in a row last August.

"I think it's a testament to the character of this team," Pirates right fielder Travis Snider said. "It's easy to give up on a day like this but we didn't. We kept at it and found a way to win the game."

McKenry had the first two-homer game of his four-year career.

His first homer, a straightway shot to center field to lead off the seventh, broke up Mat Latos' shutout bid and drew the Pirates within 5-1. That started a four-run inning that included consecutive run-scoring doubles by Snider and McCutchen, and a pinch-RBI single by Gaby Sanchez.

"It was a good pitch to McKenry, low and in the zone," Latos said. "He went down and hit it. He did what he is supposed to do as a hitter and you've got to give him credit."

The home run gave the Pirates a sliver of hope that they could come back against Latos, who is 4-0 against them in seven career starts.

"We needed something positive to happen," Snider said. "We hit some balls hard early but then Latos started making some tough pitches and we couldn't do anything again him."

Pinch-hitter Jack Hannahan's RBI single in top of the eighth pushed the Reds' lead to 6-4 but the Pirates then erupted for six runs in the bottom half against Broxton (0-1) to move in front 10-6.

McKenry hit a two-run home run to left to tie it. After pinch-hitter Jose Tabata walked, Marte hit his first home run of the season to put the Pirates ahead 8-6.

Sanchez then drove in a run with a sacrifice fly before Neil Walker capped the inning with an RBI single for his third hit.

"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. To score 10 runs in two innings off them is pretty amazing. I never expected to hit home runs off both of them in the same game."

Joey Votto hit a solo home run leading off the ninth off Mark Melancon to make it a three-run game but the Reds got no closer. It was the first baseman's first home run since last June 24.

The Pirates have scored 32 runs in their last six games after scoring just eight runs in their first six.

It was the Pirates' first sweep of the Reds since taking three games from April 16-18, 2010, in Pittsburgh.

"This was a tough loss -- the toughest we've had in a long time," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It was a rough day, that's for sure."

The two home runs and six runs allowed by Broxton (0-1) tied career highs for the nine-year veteran.

Jared Hughes (1-0) got the win, giving up one run in one inning.

Snider hit two doubles and Marte and McCutchen also had two hits each for Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips drove in three runs on a pair of singles a day after attending his grandfather's funeral.

Phillips was one of four Reds players with two hits along with Shin-Soo Choo, Todd Frazier and Chris Heisey. Choo has reached base in all 12 games this season, Frazier broke an 0-for-16 slump with a third-inning single and Heisey ended a string of 14 hitless at-bats with a single in the second.

Pirates starter Phil Irwin had a rough big-league debut after being recalled from Class AAA Indianapolis before the game to replace left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who was unable to pitch after straining his left hamstring on Monday in a start at Arizona.

Irwin fell behind 4-0 early as Cincinnati scored twice in both the first and second innings. The Pirates' 21st-round draft pick from the University of Mississippi in 2009, Irwin was tagged for five runs -- four earned -- and six hits in 4 2/3 innings while walking four and striking out four.

"As much as I tried to stay calm and as calm as I at least tried to act, nerves got the better of me in those first two innings," Irwin said. "I thought I did OK after that."

Cincinnati scored two runs before Irwin could get his first out. Choo singled and Zack Cozart and Votto walked to load the bases, then Phillips hit a two-run single to left. The Reds had been hitless in their previous 26 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Choo hit an RBI double in the second and another run scored when Marte, the left fielder, bobbled the ball for error.

Latos gave up three runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings with one walk and six strikeouts while extending his streak of starts without a loss to 10, dating to Aug. 29. In seven career starts against the Pirates, Latos has 48 strikeouts in 45 innings

"You've got to like the way we kept after it and especially the job Mike McKenry did, especially hitting a big home run off a guy that we have a hard time scoring against to get us going," Hurdle said. "He works as hard as anyone on the team and he always stays prepared. This was only his second start of the season and it's tough to hit home runs off two quality pitchers the way he did when you've only had one start all season."

NOTES: Pittsburgh optioned infielder/outfielder Josh Harrison to Indianapolis to make room on the roster for Irwin. Harrison was 1-for-8 (.125) with one RBI in six games. ... Cincinnati right-hander Johnny Cueto flew back to Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon to be examined by team doctors after leaving Saturday night's game in the fifth inning with a strained triceps. The results of the examination aren't expected to be announced until Monday. ... Heisey was dropped from second to seventh in the batting order, then broke his streak of 14 hitless at-bats with his single in the second inning. ... Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton is tentatively scheduled to start an injury rehabilitation assignment with high Class A Bradenton on Thursday. Morton, who underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last June, has pitched twice in extended spring training games in Florida. ... Cincinnati opens a three-game home series against Philadelphia on Monday night while Pittsburgh begins a three-game home series with St. Louis. Bronson Arroyo (1-1, 5.25) will start for the Reds against Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee (2-0, 1.08), and the Pirates' James McDonald (1-1, 3.75) will face the Cardinals' Lance Lynn (1-0, 4.50).

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