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The Juice: New hero emerges as Pirates’ uprising continues

Nine innings, nine items to get you going. Ladies and gentlemen of the Stew, take a sip of morning Juice.

1. Meet Michael McKenry(notes): One month ago he was the back-up catcher with the Boston Red Sox Triple-A club in Pawtucket. Today, he could run for mayor of Pittsburgh after punctuating the Pirates four-run eighth inning rally with his first career home run — a three-run shot off Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol(notes) — which helped his new team secure a dramatic 7-4 win.

I'd say that gives young Michael hero status, wouldn't you?

"I don't know about being the hero," McKenry said. "There were eight other innings where guys just battled their brains out."

And a humble lad. Looks like he'll fit in nicely with what manager Clint Hurdle is rebuilding in the Steel City.

2. Kotsay once, Kotsay twice: Pittsburgh's win had them in position to climb into a first place tie, but the Milwaukee Brewers held on to their slim division lead, twice rallying to overcome the Cincinnati Reds, 8-7. Mark Kotsay(notes) played a big role in both rallies. His solo home run capped a three-run inning in the fifth. He then delivered a two-out, two-run single off Francisco Cordero(notes) in ninth to send the crowd home happy.

3. Two's company: The Pirates do have some company is second place, however. Kelly Johnson(notes) broke a seventh inning tie with his second grand slam of 2011, and the Arizona Diamondbacks held on to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-6. That drops the Redbirds into a virtual tie with Pittsburgh, one game behind the pace-setting Brew Crew.

4. Not what the Proctor ordered: There aren't too many weak spots in the Atlanta Braves bullpen. After 9+ innings and five Braves relievers were used, Raul Ibanez(notes) found one of them, depositing Scott Proctor's(notes) 2-0 pitch into the right field seats to give the Philadelphia Phillies a 3-2 win in 10 innings.

5. Heavy hearts: On a difficult night for everybody involved, the Texas Rangers were able to jump out to a 7-0 lead thanks to a grand slam from Mike Napoli(notes) and solo homers from Ian Kinsler(notes) and Adrian Beltre(notes). C.J. Wilson(notes) made the early lead stand up, limiting the Oakland A's to four runs over seven innings in the 8-5 triumph for Texas.

6. Can't quit while you're ahead: An eight-run first inning was all the Boston Red Sox would need in their 10-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. Unfortunately, they were forced to play the game out, losing starter Josh Beckett(notes) to a hyperextended left knee along the way. He'll be reevaluated on Saturday.

Oh, and you may have heard about the little disagreement between David Ortiz(notes) and Kevin Gregg(notes).

7. Not tonight, Pronk: There would be no repeat of Travis Hafner's(notes) epic game-winning grand slam for the Cleveland Indians. Travis Snider(notes) made sure of that, driving in five runs with three big hits. As did Toronto Blue Jays pitching, who held Pronk hitless in five plate appearances in their 11-7 victory.

8. Hide the breakables: Angry Brian Wilson(notes) is on the prowl again after serving up Scott Hairson's pinch-hit, tie-breaking home run leading off the New York Mets ninth. An Andres Torres(notes) error would lead to two more runs in the frame for New York, which helped them dispose of the San Francisco Giants, 5-2.

9. Balkin' Bob strikes again: It wasn't another balk-off balk, but Ryan Mattheus'(notes) fourth inning twitch — as called by Bob Davidson — allowed Todd Helton(notes) to cross with a difference-making run in the Colorado Rockies 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals.

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