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Morneau, Burnett help Pirates sweep Rangers

The SportsXchange

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Pittsburgh Pirates held off a late rally and completed a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers.

Newcomer Justin Morneau had four hits and A.J. Burnett pitched 4 1/3 perfect innings to help the Pirates win the series finale 7-5 on Wednesday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark.

"The thing that I was most impressed with is our consistency, focus and preparation," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We didn't come in here with a sweep on our mind. We wanted to win the first game, the second and then the game today. It was a tall order and a collective effort all around."

The sweep for Pittsburgh (84-61) came after the club had dropped four consecutive in the middle of a nine-game road trip that concluded with the Pirates finishing 5-4. The Pirates inched closer to the Cardinals, who play later in the day, by moving a half game back in the National League Central.

Texas (81-64) dropped its sixth in its last seven games to fall 2 1/2 games back of the Athletics in the American League West ahead of a pivotal three-game set with Oakland beginning on Friday.

"We just haven't been able to get the job done," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Any time we put runs on the board, we couldn't slow them down."

The Pirates held off a Rangers comeback bid for the second straight contest. This time, Texas left four stranded and two in scoring position in the final three innings.

Texas scored five runs in the sixth and seventh innings combined to bring the game within a run. The Rangers would leave runners stranded on the corners to end the seventh.

Clint Barmes knocked the series' first homer off of the left-field foul pole to give Pittsburgh its 7-5 advantage.

Burnett (8-10) had pitched four innings of perfect ball for the Pirates before Texas could get to the right-hander.

A.J Pierzynski broke up any attempted bid with a double in the fifth, but Texas broke through on Burnett in the sixth with a pair of runs.

"I was able to locate my pitches early but they got to me late and I started to leave the ball over the middle of the plate," Burnett said. "I was getting ahead and was able to work on the breaking ball to some hot hitters today."

Back-to-back walks by Burnett opened up the sixth and, following a single by Ian Kinsler, Texas made the pitcher pay for the free passes. Elvis Andrus would send a hard grounder off of the glove of a diving Barmes at short to plate two.

Burnett would last through 6 1/3 innings and departed after a RBI single by David Murphy to begin a three-run inning for Texas. Burnett struck out seven to go with five earned runs.

Bryan Morris and Vin Mazzaro combined to pitch 1 1/3 innings for the Pirates to hold the lead and gave way to Kyle Farnsworth, who earned his first save of the year.

"It is a one game at a time team," Burnett said. "It is a good thing to see and a sign of good things to come."

The Pirates built up a four run lead behind a lack of control from Rangers starter Matt Garza (9-5) and then on reliever Joseph Ortiz. Garza allowed four free passes through four innings pitched. Garza was responsible for three earned runs.

Felix Pie helped Pittsburgh draw first blood with a 10-pitch walk to lead off the third. Pie would steal second before a single up the middle by Neil Walker helped see Pie home.

"We did a lot of nice things today, including running the bases effectively," Hurdle said. "The offense has shown up in good fashion the last two days.

Two singles sandwiched between two walks, one with the bases loaded, added a second run before Jose Tabata's fielder's choice to score Russell Martin brought the lead to 3-0.

Pittsburgh claimed four runs off of the Rangers bullpen following the departure of Garza. Morneau would score twice, while Marlon Byrd would come home on a wild pitch from Neal Cotts.

The Pirates closed out their Interleague schedule by concluding 15-5 against the American League, while Texas finished 10-10 in Interleague.

Notes: The Pirates announced that Charlie Morton would start their contest with the Cubs on Friday. Morton had been questionable for his next start after battling left foot soreness. ... Derek Holland will start Texas' three-game set with a scheduled start against the Athletics on Friday. ... Texas was swept for the fourth time in its history at home against the National League. The previous three times had been by Houston in 2003, Atlanta in 2002 and Los Angeles in 1998.
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