CINCINNATI -- Michael McKenry is movin' on up. Until a few days ago, the Pirates' nominal No. 2 catcher had spent his career buried in the lineup. Then on Wednesday, he was bumped up into the six-hole against a left-hander (the Cubs' Travis Wood). And on Saturday, he found himself in the heart of the batting order at No. 5, even with right-hander Mike Leake going for the Reds. Riding another hot streak (.423, with three homers and nine RBIs in his last eight games) will get you that.
"He's hitting fifth because he's been hot. That sums it up right there," said manager Clint Hurdle. "And it hasn't been just against left-handed pitching. We'll see if there is more to it than that. I thought I'd faith-feed him a little bit more, and see if he can take care of it." Until that Wednesday start at Wrigley Field, McKenry had batted seventh or lower in 88 of his 91 starts for the Pirates in 2011-12. "It's awesome to see. More motivation, and definitely encouraging," McKenry said. "At the same time, it's humbling. But everyone in this clubhouse works their tail off. We earn whatever we get." Hurdle had one other reason for batting McKenry No. 5: He has Garrett Jones in front of him and Pedro Alvarez and Travis Snider behind him. That wedges a right-handed bat between all those lefties, lessening the target for the key setup southpaw in Cincinnati's bullpen, Sean Marshall.