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Pittsburgh at Washington

Venue: Nationals Park
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Even if Gio Gonzalez can continue his outstanding pitching, the Washington Nationals' slumping offense hasn't shown it can provide enough runs to end the team's lengthy slide.

The Pittsburgh Pirates hope to take advantage of those troubles and complete their first four-game road sweep of the Washington/Montreal franchise in 25 years Thursday.

Washington (48-53), the defending NL East champion, had its late rally fall short against a Pittsburgh team playing without injured All-Star closer Jason Grilli (forearm) in Wednesday's 4-2 loss.

The struggling Nationals had only two hits over the first eight innings before managing three in the ninth, including Jayson Werth's two-run home run, but still lost their season-worst sixth straight contest.

While Werth is 5 for 12 with five homers and eight RBIs in his last four games, Washington has gone 2 for 35 (.057) with runners in scoring position and totaled 13 runs during its skid.

Star left fielder Bryce Harper (knee) and shortstop Ian Desmond (hand blister) missed Wednesday's contest, but could be back as the Nationals look to avoid their longest losing streak since an eight-game slide from Aug. 28 - Sept. 5, 2009.

"We need to win some games,'' Wednesday's losing pitcher Stephen Strasburg said. "It's getting to the point where our back's against the wall.''

Gonzalez (7-3, 2.89 ERA) seems poised to keep them close since he's 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last nine starts.

The left-hander matched a career high with 11 strikeouts and yielded four hits over six shutout innings, but was given only one run of support in Washington's eventual 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.

He'll try to build on his 2-0 record with a 2.84 ERA in his fourth career start against the Pirates (60-39) after surrendering two runs and five hits over six innings in a 6-2 victory at Pittsburgh on May 5.

Starling Marte took Gonzalez deep in that meeting, though he enters this meeting 1 for 21 in his last five games.

Following his own 1-for-21 stretch, teammate Pedro Alvarez may be heating up after going 3 for 7 with two home runs in the last two games of this series.

He'll try to help the Pirates win their fifth straight and claim their first four-game road sweep in this rivalry since June 23-26, 1988.

A.J. Burnett (4-7, 3.05) has gone 1-5 with a 3.39 ERA over his last 10 starts thanks in part to a Pittsburgh offense that has given him just 19 runs of support over that span. That's been a common theme for Burnett - his 3.07 run-support average ranks among the lowest in the major leagues.

The right-hander allowed four runs in the first inning but settled down and struck out eight in a 5-4 loss at Cincinnati on Saturday. He yielded five runs - two earned - and a season-high 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings.

Only two of his 15 career starts versus Washington/Montreal have come within the past two seasons. Burnett has struck out 19 while going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA over 15 innings in those outings - both Pittsburgh victories.

While Burnett has made things tough on Ryan Zimmerman (0 for 9) and Desmond (0 for 7), Adam LaRoche is 3 for 6 with a home run since 2010.

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
 
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Probable Starters

A.J. Burnett, RHP
2013 stats
105.2 Innings Pitched 124.2
4-7 Wins-Losses 7-3
3.07 Earned Run Average 2.89
43 Walks 49
118 Strikeouts 125
101 Pitches Per Start 105
Career vs. opponent
107.0 Innings Pitched 19.0
8-3 Wins-Losses 2-0
3.20 Earned Run Average 2.84

Gio Gonzalez, LHP
Weather
weather image  More clouds than sun. Mild.
Hi TempLo TempWindHumidityPrecip %
79°F64°F8mph/N54%21%
Standings
TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
Pittsburgh2nd NL Central7950.61257-3 L 1
Washington2nd NL East6664.5086 ½ 6-4 L 1
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs Gio Gonzalez
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Harrison32100.667
Martin73031.429
Marte31100.333
Mercer31000.333
McCutchen82010.250
 
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs A.J. Burnett
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Hairston32000.667
LaRoche207138.350
Ramos31102.333
Suzuki237034.304
Span247019.292
 

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Injuries
Pittsburgh
PlayerInjury
A. BurnettElbow
B. CumptonElbow
C. HartShoulder
G. HernandezShoulder
T. IshikawaBack
A. LamboFoot
R. ScahillForearm
J. SellersAchilles
Washington
PlayerInjury
A. BarrettElbow
D. CarpenterShouler
R. JohnsonFoot, Oblique
N. McLouthShoulder
D. SpanHip
C. StammenForearm
S. StrasburgBack
D. UgglaBack
 
Series Game Log
DateatResult/TimeWinnerLoser
Apr 21WASWAS 2-1Barrett Villanueva 
Apr 22WASSTL 7-5Siegrist Treinen 
Apr 23WASSTL 4-1Wacha Scherzer 
Aug 31STLSTL 8-5Siegrist Janssen 
Sep 1STL 8:15 PM EDT  
Sep 2STL 8:15 PM EDT