WASHINGTON -- Clint Hurdle has been looking for a comfortable way to fight the urge to keep Russell Martin permanently behind the plate. Catchers need regular breaks and, as his former coaches with the Yankees advised Hurdle, Martin isn't one to ask out.
"They told us, 'You put him in, he'll keep playing.' So we've got to find times to give him a rest," Hurdle said.
The Pirates may have found those times: When Francisco Liriano pitches. Michael McKenry caught Liriano for the second time in Wednesday night's 4-2 win over the Nationals, and the two again dialed up a nice synergy.
"They were right in sync," Hurdle said. "No shaking [off of signs by the pitcher], a good job of blocking [pitches in the dirt]. We've talked about different combinations that make the most sense to keep Michael involved, and that's a great thought."
In his two starts throwing to McKenry, Liriano has allowed one run and eight hits in 13 innings. Having the left-hander's vigilance about baserunners has also helped McKenry gain better control of the running game.
McKenry's rare start -- only his fourth this month -- became an overall success with his two-run single in the ninth, which at the time opened up a 4-0 lead but became the difference when the Nationals struck for two runs in the bottom of the ninth.
"My role has changed a bit," said McKenry, who last season spelled regular Rod Barajas more frequently, "but I just want to be the best I can be at whatever that role is."
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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.