PITTSBURGH -- It isn't like Clint Hurdle had never before seen Clint Barmes get a big, long hit. But it took a while for the shortstop to bookend that Opening Day walk-off home run off Trevor Hoffman in 2005. Seven-and-a-half years later, the defensive wizard kissed his go-ahead grand slam off the left-field foul pole in the fourth inning of Sunday's game against the Padres. "That swing [Sunday] was the biggest I've seen from him since," Hurdle said of someone who normally is the pitching staff's security blanket.
"He's had a challenging season from the offensive side, but the defensive side speaks for itself. There is a security in that clubhouse when he's at shortstop, based on volume of work and pedigree. He's helped us win some games more with the glove than with the bat -- but there's still more in there. We have a bunch of games left for him to still help with the bat." Barmes' average has been steadily on the rise since the end of May, although his numbers had been so depressed it is hard to note the improvement. He took an average of .217 into Monday night's game -- but had hit .260 since the All-Star Game and .316 in his last dozen games. Earlier in Sunday's game, Barmes had committed a pair of errors, one throwing and one fielding. Thus, his first miscues in 37 games and his first career grand slam occurred within innings. Baseball, at its crazy best.