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Barmes' blast backs strong pitching performances

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

Barmes singled sharply in the third and pulled his homer to left field off Braves reliever Johnny Venters after Gaby Sanchez led off the fifth with a double.

Starter James McDonald threw two hitless innings before five Pittsburgh pitchers, including rotation hopeful Jonathan Sanchez and closer Jason Grilli, finished the job against Atlanta.

Jason Heyward made it a 2-1 game with a homer off Mark Melancon in the top of the sixth before the Bucs (2-0) broke it open against David Carpenter, the fourth Atlanta (0-3) pitcher, in the bottom of the frame.

Clint Robinson contributed an RBI double to the rally, and Darren Ford drilled a run-scoring single as he improved to 4-for-5 this spring.

Grilli pitched a hitless fifth, recovering from a one-out walk of Ernesto Mejia to strike out Ramiro Pena and Reed Johnson.

Up Next for Pirates: Kyle McPherson saddles up for the Bucs' rotation derby as he starts in Fort Myers, Fla., against the Twins on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET. He'll be watched closely, as he's trying to make it all the way back from an offseason bout of biceps tendinitis. Jeanmar Gomez, Phil Irwin, Erik Cordier, Chris Leroux, Kris Johnson and Kyle Waldrop are also on the Pirates' pitching schedule.

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, Gaby Sanchez, Jonathan Sanchez, Clint Barmes, James McDonald, Jason Grilli