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Martin thwarts Brewers' run game in return

Martin thwarts Brewers' run game in return

PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers had their wheels in motion seemingly nonstop Monday night, stealing six bases on Pirates catcher Michael McKenry -- the most in a game this season.

But the return of their starting catcher took some of the air out of the Brewers' tires.

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Russell Martin started Tuesday night after dealing with soreness in his neck during the last week, and said before the game that he doesn't have any concerns in regards to the injury. He added that he feels confident getting back into the lineup, both offensively and defensively.

"You can play through some soreness," Martin said. "But when it's your neck, and you're playing a position with contact and stuff like that, you want your neck to feel like it can support your head. And I've got a big head, so I need my neck strong."

McKenry, who has allowed 23 stolen bases this season while throwing out just one runner, has been the only available catcher for the Pirates in the last week, although the team brought Tony Sanchez to New York on Saturday from Triple-A Indianapolis. They sent him back the next day because Martin's return was near.

Martin missed six of the last seven games after his neck locked up during warmups on May 7, only playing Thursday, admittedly too early of a return. He has allowed 15 stolen bases and thrown out nine runners this season (37.5 percent) -- including Ryan Braun in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 4-3, 12-inning win over the Brewers -- the third best percentage in the National League entering Tuesday with at least 20 games played.

"Today, there's no worries," Martin said. "That's why I'm in the lineup. There's nothing to be worried about."

The Pirates will start three left-handers to close out their series with the Brewers, and Hurdle said he hopes that will contain some of Milwaukee's speed on the bases. Nine times this season has a team stolen at least four bases, and three times it's been the Brewers -- all coming against the Pirates.

"They were going [Monday] as soon as we picked up and did anything but a slide-step," Hurdle said. "Unfortunately, not everybody can slide-step every pitch. And they know that."

Hurdle said third baseman Brandon Inge or shortstop John McDonald would have strapped on the shin guards and chest protector last week in case of an emergency, but it didn't come to that.

"I don't think it's something he's jumping to do. But if a body drops, I think Brandon would've walked down and said, 'Give me stuff, I'm ready to do this,'" Hurdle said. "Johnny's been working in practice, so he's ready to do this, too."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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