After a one-night aberration, the Pittsburgh Pirates got back to their usual winning formula: stingy pitching and just enough hitting.
Charlie Morton tossed 7 2/3 innings of ground-ball genius and Clint Barmes launched a line-drive three-run homer in the seventh to boost the Bucs to a 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Friday night at AT&T Park.
The Pirates (76-52) stayed one game ahead of St. Louis for first in the National League Central with their second consecutive win over the defending MLB champions, but Friday’s taut action was nothing like Thursday’s 10-5 decision. Morton and Giants starter Madison Bumgarner ensured that, as Roger Kieschnick’s RBI bloop single in the fourth was the only thing preventing a scoreless tie through six innings.
But back-to-back singles from Gaby Sanchez and Josh Harrison gave the light-hitting Barmes a shot to at least tie the game in the seventh. The Pirates shortstop did more than that, golfing a down-and-in Bumgarner pitch just over the left-field wall to put Pittsburgh up 3-1.
Morton induced a critical double play to escape the bottom of the seventh, but he reached the end of his 83-pitch outing when Brandon Crawford popped a two-out double to right in the eighth. Lefthanded reliever Tony Watson came in to put out a fire for the second straight night, and he came through by striking out Brandon Belt.
Mark Melancon danced around a Hunter Pence infield single in the ninth to record his another save, his ninth, pushing the Pirates to 4-1 on their current West Coast road trip and 11-10 in August.
Andrew McCutchen and Harrison collected two singles each, while Pence enjoyed a two-hit night for San Francisco (56-72). Morton stimulated 13 ground balls to just five outs through the air, another signature performance for the expert sinkerballer.