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Pitching falters against Pirates after strong start

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Clint Barmes broke a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the fifth, and Brad Hawpe's two-run double keyed a five-run outburst in the sixth Sunday as the Pirates downed the Braves, 9-2, in the first Grapefruit League game in the expanded McKechnie Field.

Barmes singled sharply in the third and pulled his homer off Johnny Venters after Gaby Sanchez had led off with a double.

Pirates starter James McDonald went two hitless innings as five Pittsburgh pitchers combined to hold the Braves to seven hits.

Jason Heyward cut the Pirates' lead to 2-1 with a homer off Mark Melancon in the top of the sixth, before the Bucs broke it open against David Carpenter, the fourth Atlanta pitcher, in the bottom of the inning.

Clint Robinson contributed an RBI double to the rally, and Darren Ford drilled a run-scoring single. He is 4-for-5 in spring.

The exhibition game was the first between the National League rivals since March 2010.

Jason Grilli, the Pirates' new closer, pitched a hitless fifth, recovering from a one-out walk of Ernesto Mejia with strikeouts of Ramiro Pena and Reed Johnson.

Up Next for Braves: Kris Medlen will make his Grapefruit League season debut when the Braves host the Marlins at Champion Stadium on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Medlen went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts last year, drawing comparisons to former Atlanta great Greg Maddux. Closer Craig Kimbrel is among the relievers who are scheduled to pitch.

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: Atlanta Braves, Jason Heyward, David Carpenter