During the 2011 offseason, Michael McKenry went down to the Fall Instructional League to work on his hitting with Manager Clint Hurdle. Working with his skipper continued throughout spring training when McKenry focused on some adjustments at the plate. McKenry is already sound behind the plate, earning the nickname “The Fort” for his defense. McKenry wanted to improve upon his .222/.276/.322 line in 2011 with Pittsburgh.
What’s helped McKenry has been the opportunity. The Pirates acquired the 27-year-old from Boston’s Triple-A club on June 12, 2011, and for the first time this spring, McKenry knew he had a shot of breaking camp for the first time in his professional career. McKenry said that allowed him to have quality at-bats instead of panicking all the time.
“Just a little bit of everything,” McKenry said on what he worked on. “Just tried to get my whole arsenal a little bit better, and just try to help out the team in any way that I can. Things I worked with Hurdle this off-season, more the mental side of the game. Just keeping it simple and not try to do too much. I think too often in this game we try to push a little too hard. You gain more success when you don’t try quite as hard.”
The hard work has paid off for McKenry. Although he started the season off slow, McKenry has been on fire at the plate and making the most of the playing time behind the dish.
McKenry went 2-for-5 against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, which included launching his 10th long ball of the season to drive in three. McKenry has hit safely in 15 of his last 20 games, going 25-for-66 (.378 avg) with six doubles, seven home runs and 21 RBI.
“I’m a worker,” McKenry said. “I spend a lot of time in the cage. I know eventually it would pay off. I think early on, I was pressing a little too hard. Trying to do too much, trying to be a hero. Just putting a little too much pressure on myself. Now, I’m just relaxing and going out there and having fun.”
McCutchen Has Impressive Month of July
Andrew McCutchen finished the month of July with a .446 clip (41-for-92), which was the highest batting average (minimum 50 at bats) by a Pirate in the month of July in the modern era (since 1900). In addition, his 41 hits were the most by a Pirate in a month since Freddy Sanchez collected 46 in August of 2007.
McCutchen’s .446 average last month ranked second among all National League players while his 41 hits led all of Major League Baseball. He also finished second among all National League hitters in slugging percentage (.739), on-base percentage (.510), runs (22) and total bases (68) while his 1.249 OPS ranked second in the Majors behind Mike Trout (1.259).
McCutchen, who took home National League Player-of-the-Month honors in June, enters today with a Major League leading .371 average. The last time a qualifying player entered August with a mark that high was in 2003, when Albert Pujols hit for a .372 average.
Alvarez Continues Hot Hitting in Day
Pedro Alvarez picked up two hits against Chicago on Wednesday’s day game. The third baseman has put up impressive numbers in the day time, and so have the Pirates.
The Pirates have produced a 23-13 record in day games this season, winning 16 of their last 20 overall. Alvarez is hitting .314 (32-for-102) with 14 home runs and 32 RBI in 31 day games this season, going 22-for-56 (.393) with four doubles, nine home runs and 25 RBI in his last 17.
“He gets up earlier. That’s what he said,” Hurdle said with a laugh. “That’s what I’m going with.”
“We love to nail things down to why’s. Sometimes there’s no why’s, it’s just the way they’re happening. I can show you why’s from last year with pitchers splits and hitters splits that don’t correlate to this year. All I’m glad is that they are what they are. And I’m glad we’re still playing day games and we’ve got a number more still on the schedule.”