Nationals-Pirates Preview

Gio Gonzalez’s teams are 6-0 when he faces the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Washington Nationals left-hander seeks his fourth straight win Saturday night in Pittsburgh, where Aramis Ramirez is expected to begin his second stint with the Pirates.

Gonzalez (7-4, 3.93 ERA) is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his last four outings after yielding two runs in six innings in Monday’s 7-2 win over the New York Mets.

He is 3-0 with a 2.95 ERA versus Pittsburgh (56-40) in six starts – five with the Nationals. He pitched seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball in a 9-2 rout of the Pirates on June 21.

Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte are both 3 for 12 versus Gonzalez, and Pedro Alvarez is 0 for 6 with four strikeouts but has homered twice in this series.

Ramirez is hitless in five at-bats with three walks against Gonzalez and batting .170 against southpaws. He was acquired from Milwaukee on Friday and will rejoin the club with which he spent his first five-plus seasons.

Injuries to Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer necessitated the deal for Ramirez, who batted .247 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs for the Brewers.

"We felt this was a legitimate major league bat that wherever (manager) Clint (Hurdle) wants to put him in the lineup, he can do some damage for us," general manager Neal Huntington said. "He can be a threat and provide some protection. That was important for us."

Pittsburgh scored one run four times in a 1-5 trip after the All-Star break before scoring seven runs in each of the first two games of this set, totaling 25 hits. Jung Ho Kang and Francisco Cervelli are each 4 for 8 in this series, and Kang has gone 12 for 24 over a span of six straight multihit efforts.

The Pirates won 7-5 on Friday for their 10th win in 11 at home, where they are 13-1 against the NL East. Gregory Polanco, Neil Walker and Alvarez all homered off Max Scherzer.

"That’s kind of what we’re known for, just battling and grinding it out," Walker said. "Games like tonight are pretty impressive given that’s one of the best pitchers in the league."

All-Star Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett (8-3, 2.44) has a 1.58 home ERA for baseball’s fourth-best mark. The Pirates have won the last four starts by the veteran right-hander, but he was fortunate to win Monday at Kansas City following arguably his worst effort of the year. He gave up a season-high six runs, 11 hits and two homers over six-plus innings in a 10-7 victory.

Burnett allowed four runs and a career-high 14 hits in a 4-1 loss at Washington (51-44) on June 19 to fall to 5-3 with a 2.95 ERA in his last 10 starts against the club. Bryce Harper is 5 for 19 with a homer against him while Ian Desmond is 3 for 21 with eight strikeouts.

Harper doubled Friday and is 6 for 28 at PNC Park – the only NL stadium in which he has yet to homer.

Desmond is 8 for 16 in his last five games with three homers – two in this series.

"He’s swinging it good, he’s seeing it good," manager Matt Williams said. "We just didn’t have enough for them tonight. But another one tomorrow. Go get ’em."

The Nationals activated Anthony Rendon from the disabled list and put him in the lineup at second base. He missed 25 games with a strained left quadriceps.

In six games on a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac, he went 8 for 17 with three walks.

”I feel like I’m swinging the bat well and have my timing at the plate, which is what I wanted to accomplish down there,” Rendon said. ”I feel good.”