PITTSBURGH -- Pirates pitchers are allowing 3.59 runs per game, the fourth-stingiest rate in the National League. But the Bucs took a record of 14-18 into Saturday night's game against the Astros because their hitters ranked dead last with 2.78 runs per game.

So are the pitchers and the hitters at each other's throats by now?

Pittsburgh skipper Clint Hurdle conceded that it was a good question; "I've been in environments where that has happened, and needed to be defused."

The query was also timely, inasmuch as current and former members of the San Diego Padres were busy on Saturday denying that hitters' criticism of Petco Park's dimensions had ignited a tussle with one of their pitchers.

"There is no sense of that being the case here," Hurdle said. "The cohesiveness has been very good. [The pitchers] have been very professional. They understand and see the effort -- and the frustration -- of the hitters. They're all confident that we will pull through it.

"The pitchers know there have been days, and there will be others, when they've struggled but everyone continued to play hard behind them to get outs."

That is almost verbatim how James McDonald shrugged off his tough 1-0 loss in Friday night's series opener with the Astros.

"It's part of the game. I've been the guy on the mound, getting shelled, and the guys behind me still believed in me and played hard behind me."

Barmes enjoys success against former clubs

PITTSBURGH -- Maybe Clint Barmes only needs a few more former teams to convincingly bust out of a season-long batting slump. The shortstop has had a relatively stable 10-year career, so he only has two sets of ex-teammates. He has flourished in the reunions.

Last month, Barmes went 6-for-11 in a series against the Rockies, his team from 2003-10. On Friday night, he got a clutch hit (advancing a rally that ultimately went nowhere) in a 1-for-3 outing against the Astros, his 2011 team.

That 7-for-14 may not put him in the same haunting league as Brandon Inge, who has torched his former Detroit club with eight RBIs in two games as a member of the Oakland A's. But it's still noteworthy, considering Barmes had a total of only 15 hits entering Saturday night's action.

"I definitely had a lot more fun in that series against Colorado than at any other time this season," Barmes said. "If it was a coincidence, I'm ready for more of the same coincidence this series. I wouldn't mind that at all, especially the way this season has gone."

Last season, Barmes played behind the pitchers he is trying to hurt this weekend. Advantage, anyone?

"I don't really know," Barmes said. "I know they know my strengths and weaknesses, too; they've watched me hit. Being behind a guy and facing him from the box is different.

"I'm usually better off, anyway, when I don't try to figure it out ahead of time."