The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 15, 2013

McKenry’s homers rally Bucs past Reds for series sweep

PITTSBURGH — Michael McKenry knows he isn’t going to get many curtain calls as a backup catcher.

So, he savored the moment Sunday when he was called out of the dugout following his second home run of the day, a drive that tied the game as the Pittsburgh Pirates overcame a five-run, seventh-inning deficit to beat the Cincinnati Reds, 10-7.

“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.”

McKenry got his curtain call after his two-run drive made it 6-all in a six-run eighth inning against Jonathan Broxton (0-1).

McKenry had the first two-homer game of his four-year major league career, and Starling Marte hit a tiebreaking two-run drive.

Cincinnati has lost five straight, its longest slide since last Aug. 5-9. The Pirates swept the Reds for the first time since April 16-18, 2010, in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh trailed 5-0 when McKenry homered off Mat Latos leading off the seventh. Travis Snider’s RBI double off the top of the right-field wall – upheld after a video review – chased Latos, Andrew McCutchen doubled in a run against Logan Ondrusek and pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez had an RBI single off Manny Parra.

“The home run gave us some hope,” Snider said. “We hit some balls hard early in the game and didn’t have anything to show for it, but then Latos started making a lot of tough pitches. We hung with it, though, and it’s a testament to the character of this team.”

Latos said McKenry hit a good pitch.

“It was low and in the zone,” Latos said. “He did what he was supposed to do, and you’ve got to give him credit.”

Jack Hannahan’s pinch RBI single off Jared Hughes (1-0) boosted Cincinnati’s lead to 6-4 in the eighth, but Broxton walked Pedro Alvarez leading off the bottom half and McKenry’s second homer tied it. Jose Tabata walked with one out and Marte’s first home run of the season gave the Pirates an 8-6 lead.

“You just don’t expect to do that kind of damage against pitchers like Latos and Broxton,” McKenry said. “They’re very good pitchers, and Latos has been particularly tough on us. I didn’t know if we’d get to him the way he was pitching.”

Pitcher Jonathan Sanchez pinch hit for Hughes and reached on Broxton’s third walk of the inning and scored on Gaby Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. Neil Walker added an RBI single.

Pittsburgh’s three homers doubled its total this season. The Pirates have 32 runs during a 5-1 spurt after scoring eight in a 1-5 start.

The two homers and six runs allowed tied career highs for Broxton, a nine-year veteran. Reds manager Dusty Baker attributed Broxton’s struggles to rustiness as he had not pitched in a week.

“He warmed up three times yesterday just to try to stay sharp,” Baker said. “We need to get him some work. We need to start getting some more leads so we can get him in there more often.”

Walker had three hits for Pittsburgh, while Snider hit two doubles, and Marte and McCutchen had two hits each.

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

Cincinnati’s Shin-Soo Choo had two hits and has reached base in all 12 games this season. Todd Frazier broke an 0-for-16 slump with a third-inning single and Chris Heisey ended a string of 14 hitless at-bats with a single in the second.

The Reds’ Joey Votto led off the ninth with his first home run since June 24. He also drew three walks.

Pirates starter Phil Irwin had a rocky major league debut. He was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to replace left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who strained his left hamstring Monday.

A 21st-round draft pick from the University of Mississippi in 2009, Irwin allowed five runs – four earned – six hits and four walks in 4 2-3 innings while striking out four.

“As I much as I tried to stay calm and act like I was calm, nerves got the better of me early on,” Irwin said. “I finally settled down in the third inning and I thought I did OK after that.”

Latos gave up three runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings. He is 4-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 10 starts dating to August and has 48 strikeouts in 45 innings during seven career starts against the Pirates.

“It’s a tough loss, the toughest one we’ve had in a long time,” Baker said. “That was a rough day for all of us.”

Notes: The Reds are not expected to update RHP Johnny Cueto’s injury status until today; he left Saturday night’s game in the fifth inning with a strained right triceps. A 19-game winner last season, was to be examined by team doctors in Cincinnati late Sunday afternoon. ... Pittsburgh optioned INF/OF Josh Harrison to Indianapolis to open a roster spot for Irwin. ...  Heisey was dropped from second to seventh in the batting order. ... Cincinnati opens a three-game home series against Philadelphia on Monday night with RHP Bronson Arroyo (1-1, 5.25) facing LHP Cliff Lee (2-0, 1.08). ... RHP James McDonald (1-1, 3.75) will start for the Pirates on Monday when they begin a three-game series against St. Louis and RHP Lance Lynn (1-0, 4.50).

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