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Burnett's strong effort leads Bucs to sweep in Texas

Barmes homers, drives in two as Pittsburgh keeps pace in NL Central

ARLINGTON -- Like Rocky getting off the mat after being totaled by Ivan Drago, the Pirates completed a remarkable turnaround in Texas on Wednesday.

Left comatose after a brutal weekend beating in Busch Stadium, the Bucs finished off a sweep of the Rangers, 7-5, with the second line of the bullpen help pooling their resolve to preserve A.J. Burnett's eighth win.

Stepping in to quiet things down after two hairy innings, and with closers Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli both unavailable due to workloads, Plan C, Kyle Farnsworth, worked a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

"It feels real good," Farnsworth said after nailing his first save since Sept. 27, 2011, for the Rays against the Yankees. "Just trying to help this team win any possible way I can."

Farnsworth fit right into Wednesday's co-op, with his fourth appearance since joining the Bucs making him the team's sixth different reliever with a save this season.

That road trip to ruin through St. Louis? The Pirates finished it with a 5-4 record, and then flew back to Pittsburgh for the final homestand of the regular season without the aid of an airplane.

This was the Pirates' eighth series sweep of the season, and the third on the road -- all three have come on American League turf, sweeps in Seattle (a two-gamer) and Anaheim preceding this one.

"To go on the road and be able to beat [Yu] Darvish, [Martin] Perez and [Matt] Garza ... that's a tall order, and we pulled it off," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after the Pirates finished Interleague Play with a 15-5 record. "That's a big-time record. It was a collective effort."

Burnett made good use of a varied offense, which even included two run-scoring hits. Other Pittsburgh runs scored on a walk, an infield grounder, a double-play grounder, a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch.

But the biggest run of the game was legit: After the Rangers rallied from a 6-2 deficit to make it a one-run game in the seventh, Clint Barmes homered in the eighth off Tanner Scheppers, clanging his fifth home run of the season off the left-field foul pole for some breathing room.

"It was definitely exciting to see that ball stay fair," Barmes said. "Anytime you can add to a lead, it's big. But especially in games likes this -- they got a chance to come back and take it from us, at any point, especially with that lineup."

After flashing the kind of stuff that can carry no-hit bids into the late innings, Burnett, who had six strikeouts the first time through the order, had to withstand some challenging moments.

As Hurdle said , "He's perfect for four-and-a-third, and after that we pitched out of the stretch a lot."

Five batters into the game, Burnett matched his 2012 strikeout total of 180 -- in 37 2/3 fewer innings. By batter No. 6, he'd topped it -- getting Mitch Moreland swinging to strike out the side.

With one out in the fifth, Pierzynski won the battle of the A.J.s -- his double to left-center interrupted Burnett's hold after he had retired the first 13 men he faced.

There was a more significant interruption the next inning, as Burnett protected a 4-0 lead. The Rangers loaded the bases with nobody out on walks to David Murphy and Leonys Martin -- Burnett's only ones of the game -- and Ian Kinsler's sharp single to left. Two runs came in when Elvis Andrus' hard grounder slithered through a diving Barmes' glove at short for a single -- but Burnett managed to pull the plug on the Rangers by getting Alex Rios to ground into a double play and Adrian Beltre on a deep fly.

After Andrus' hit through Barmes, and before making another pitch, Burnett kept his eyes glued to the right-field video board, checking out where his shortstop had been stationed. To Burnett, Andrus' ball off the bat felt like a double-play maker, and after that inning the pitcher vented his disappointment to Barmes in the dugout.

"I would've liked to have been a step over and gotten to that ball as well," said Barmes, who, Hurdle later confirmed, had been positioned where he'd been told, per the club's complex shifting schemes. "I can tell you I was just as mad, or more mad, that I wasn't in that spot."

"Barmes loves me and I love Barmes," Burnett said later. "It's just two guys who want to win really bad. He's where they tell him to play. I've just never been a big fan of [shifting]."

Acknowledging "guys can get emotional" for any reason, Hurdle calmly defended the strategies behind all the shifting and said "so many plays have been made" possible by the defensive shifts.

After the Pirates got those two runs back in the seventh -- on Pedro Alvarez's sacrifice fly and a run-scoring wild pitch by reliever Neal Cotts -- Burnett returned to the mound to try and gut his way through another inning to pick up the slack for the overworked bullpen.

He only made it one-third through: Three hits, the last Murphy's RBI single, chased him. Jeanmar Gomez relieved and let both inherited runners score, on singles by Kinsler and Andrus, to narrow the Bucs' lead to 6-5.

Bryan Morris had to come on to end the inning by getting Rios to fly out on a full-count fastball. Vin Mazzaro then got two outs to set up Farnsworth.

Felix Pie walked after a 10-pitch third-inning battle with Garza, and he stole second to get in position to score on Neil Walker's single. Pie's first stolen base since Aug. 12, 2011, enabled the Bucs to get the first score for the third straight game -- always a positive development for a team playing .722 ball when scoring first.

Ensuring a short stay for Garza by making him go through 36 pitches in the fourth inning, the Pirates stretched their lead to 3-0 on a bases-loaded walk by Barmes and a fielder's choice grounder by Jose Tabata with the bases loaded.

Garza was indeed done after that inning, having thrown 89 pitches while allowing three runs and five hits and four walks, with six strikeouts.

The Bucs added another "funny" run in the fifth against reliever Joseph Ortiz, making it 4-0 as Justin Morneau, who had four hits, scored after Alvarez bounced into a double play with runners at the corners.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, A.J. Burnett, Clint Barmes