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April 21, 2013

Barmes' singles help lift Pirates over Braves

PITTSBURGH — Clint Barmes had gotten past the point of looking for a big hit.

“I just wanted any kind of hit,” the Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop said with a smile.

He got two of them Sunday, and both were important.

Barmes had a pair of run-scoring singles for his first two RBIs of the season, including a tiebreaking hit in the sixth inning that led the Pirates over Atlanta 4-2 for their third straight win over the Braves.

Barmes began the day with an .093 batting average and was in an 0-for-14 slide.

“I really haven’t been swinging the bat as badly as it looks,” Barmes said. “If some hard-hit balls had found some holes, then my average would be better. Still, I know it looks bad when you look at the average, and it’s tough to keep grinding and having nothing to show for it.”

Atlanta led 2-0 in the second when Pedro Alvarez singled and scored on Russell Martin’s double, and Barmes followed with a tying single.

“Clint had a big hit there,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We fell behind 2-0, and three minutes later we were tied again.”

Then in the sixth, Neil Walker singled leading off against Kris Medlen (1-2), advanced to third on Alvarez’s flyout and Martin’s groundout, and scored on Barmes’ single to shortstop.

Andrelton Simmons gloved the ball near second but couldn’t get the throw to first in time as Barmes raised his average to .130 with a 2-for-3 day.

“I’m happy for Clint,” Hurdle said. “He works hard. All these guys work hard. I think having success builds confidence in anyone. I know when I have success, I start thinking I’m a little better than I really am. I’m sure Clint has to feel good about himself.”

Luis Avilan threw a run-scoring wild pitch in the seventh.

Atlanta has lost four of five following a 12-1 start and Medlen lost for the first time in 29 regular-season starts in which he was given a lead. He allowed three runs and six hits in six innings with six strikeouts and one walk.

“We had the matchup we wanted there in the sixth inning with Kris against Barmes, and he just hit the ball to a spot where we couldn’t make a play on it,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Sometimes, it happens that way.”

Medlen admitted it was a frustrating way to fall behind.

“I made a pretty good pitch, and it wound up being a little infield single that decided the game” Medlen said.

Justin Wilson (1-0) got his first major league win by giving up one hit in 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings. He entered with the score tied in the sixth and induced an inning-ending double-play grounder from B.J. Upton.

Jason Grilli pitched a scoreless ninth inning. Grilli entered the season with five saves and is seven for seven in chances this year.

Wilson, Grilli and fellow relievers Jeanmar Gomez, Jared Hughes and Tony Watson combined for six scoreless innings after Jonathan Sanchez needed 74 pitches to get through three innings. Sanchez allowed two runs and four hits, lowering his ERA to 11.12 from 12.96.

“We’re ready whenever we’re needed,” Wilson said. “We pride ourselves in that. Some days, it’s our job to pick up the starters. This was one of those days.”

After going 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position in the first three games of the series, Atlanta went ahead in the second on consecutive singles by Chris Johnson, Reed Johnson, Gerald Laird and Simmons.

However, the Braves never scored again and stranded 10 runners.

“We’re not playing bad baseball,” left fielder Justin Upton said. “We’re just not capitalized on our opportunities right now. We’re not getting that big hit when we need it.”

Notes: Atlanta 2B Dan Uggla (strained left calf) missed the game after being injured Saturday night but hopes to play tonight in the opener of a three-game series at Colorado. ... Braves 1B Freddie Freeman (strained right oblique) is expected to be activated from the DL today after a three-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett that ended Sunday. He went 5-for-10 with two doubles.  ... Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton (elbow surgery) is to make his next rehab start for Double-A Altoona on Tuesday and LHP Francisco Liriano (broken bone in right upper arm) for Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday. ... LHP Mike Minor (2-1, 0.95) is scheduled to pitch for Atlanta today against LHP Jeff Francis (1-1, 8.25). ... The Pirates open a four-game series at Philadelphia tonight with RHP A.J. Burnett (1-2, 2.63) facing RHP Tyler Cloyd, who will be called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

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