Pirates hold off Rangers to complete sweep
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 5:54 p.m.
ARLINGTON, Texas — A road trip that seemed on the verge of disaster ended up having a happy ending for the Pirates.
The Pirates outlasted the Texas Rangers, 7-5, on Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep.
The Pirates went 5-4 on the 10-day trip, which included stops in Milwaukee and St. Louis. The middle portion of the voyage was ugly, as the Cardinals won three straight games and knocked the Pirates out of first place in the NL Central.
“At this point of the season, those three (losses) could have added a lot of pressure to guys in this clubhouse,” shortstop Clint Barmes said. “But I don't feel that, and from what you saw these last three days, I don't think anybody else in here does, either.”
That good karma was strong enough even to extinguish a squabble between Barmes and pitcher A.J. Burnett.
Burnett was perfect through 41⁄3 innings until A.J. Pierzynski doubled to center. One inning after losing his no-hit bid, Burnett lost the shutout.
David Murphy and Leonys Martin drew back-to-back walks. Ian Kinsler singled, loading the bases.
Barmes tried to make a diving stop of Elvis Andrus' grounder, but the ball ticked off his glove and rolled into shallow left field. Two runs scored on the single.
Burnett clearly was agitated, and he brusquely gestured for Barmes to shift his position.
On Andrus' hit, Barmes was shaded toward the bag. All season, the Pirates have used all kinds of shifts — some subtle, some extreme — to enhance their defensive efficiency.
“That's not on Clint,” Burnett said. “That's where they tell him to play. I've never been a fan of that, you know. That ball getting through affected both of us.”
Barmes said he would have preferred to be playing a step over, but he went with the positioning that was relayed from the dugout.
“I was just as mad, if not more mad, that I wasn't in that spot,” Barmes said. “But that's part of the game. That's part of the risks and challenges we take every day.”
With Alex Rios batting, Barmes did move toward a more traditional position. Rios hit a grounder, and Barmes fielded it easily to start a double play.
Burnett and Barmes exchanged words in the dugout after the inning, but it did not blow up into an argument.
“Barmes (and I) talk all the time,” Burnett said. “But there's nothing wrong with Barmy. He loves me, and I love him. We laughed about it after the game, two guys who want to win really bad.”
Said Barmes, “That's just who A.J. is. We're all pulling in the same direction.”
If Barmes had residual ire after his encounter with Burnett, he channelled it into one swing in the eighth inning. Barmes turned on a 97 mph, inside fastball from Tanner Scheppers and clanged it off the left-field foul pole for a solo homer.
“He took a little anger out on it,” Burnett said. “Perfect.”
That drew a laugh from Barmes.
“No, I was way past that,” Barmes said. “There were no issues there. It's just two competitors made that a couple runs scored, that's all.”
Burnett (8-10) worked 61⁄3 innings, yielded five runs on six hits and picked up his third straight victory at Rangers Ballpark.
Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli and Tony Watson were unavailable out of the bullpen after extended outings Tuesday. So manager Clint Hurdle turned to Kyle Farnsworth to protect the two-run lead in the ninth.
Farnsworth tossed a 1-2-3 inning and picked up his first save since Sept. 27, 2011, when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It's always good to get back out there,” Farnsworth said. “I just wanted to keep this team rolling.”
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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