By STEPHEN HAWKINS
The Associated Press
ARLINGTON, Texas —
These Pittsburgh Pirates keep saying their goal this season was always bigger than just having a winning record.
The American League better watch out if they are able to make it to their first World Series since 1979.
Clint Barmes homered and drew a bases-loaded walk as the Pirates completed a three-game series sweep in an interleague matchup of wild-card leaders with a 7-5 victory Wednesday over the slumping Texas Rangers.
“You see how close this race is, so that’s the way we’ve been taking it every day,” Barmes said. “And I don’t see that changing.”
The Pirates (84-61), who ensured their first winning season since 1992 with a victory in the opener at Texas, finished the series with their ninth consecutive interleague road victory. They finished 15-5 overall during the regular season against AL teams.
“That’s a big-time record,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They’re challenging because they’re like pop quizzes. You got to watch video and maybe you’ve seen them. I had a little history here with a few of the hitters. It’s just been the way we’ve been able to show up.”
After being swept in three games at St. Louis last weekend, the Pirates moved within a half-game of the NL Central-leading Cardinals, who hosted Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
“The thing I’m most impressed with is our consistency, our focus and our preparation,” Hurdle said. “It doesn’t waver. We didn’t come here with sweep on our mind. We came in here to win the first game.”
Texas (81-64) has dropped nine of its last 12 games, a stretch in which the Rangers have lost four consecutive series. They have gone from a three-game lead in the AL West to 2 1⁄2 behind Oakland before the Athletics played at Minnesota on Wednesday night.
Oakland also plays the Twins on Thursday, when the Rangers have their last scheduled day off, before a three-game weekend series in Texas between the AL West’s top two teams.
“We’ll be fine,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “We’ve got an off day and then come back ready to play. It’s all we can do.”
Justin Morneau, acquired from Minnesota less than two weeks ago, snapped an 0-for-14 slump with four hits while scoring twice for Pittsburgh.
“We got outplayed in every aspect of the game in St. Louis,” Mourneau said. “To come back and have a short memory and forget about that, I think that’s a sign of a good team when you can bounce back.”