The Washington Nationals still haven't lost back-to-back home games, and sending Gio Gonzalez to the mound should give them a great chance to make sure that holds true Wednesday night.
Gonzalez has given up just one run over three outings at Nationals Park, a start he'll look to continue as the Nationals and Pirates get together for the second time in a week.
Stephen Strasburg gets the most attention in the Nationals' major league-best rotation (2.55 ERA), but it's Gonzalez (4-1, 1.94) who has the staff's lowest ERA after Strasburg struggled in Tuesday's 6-1 loss to San Diego.
Gonzalez wasn't at his best Friday in Cincinnati, laboring through five innings while allowing five hits and four walks. But he held the Reds to two runs in the 7-3 win and struck out a season-high nine, including one that eventually allowed him to escape a bases-loaded jam in the fifth.
"It shows a lot from the manager that he believed in me 100 percent, and gave me an opportunity to go out there and showcase what I can do. He didn't pull me out in that situation," Gonzalez told the Nationals' official website. "He believed in me, and that shows me a lot. I want to go out there and win every game for him."
Washington has won every time Gonzalez has started in the nation's capital, and only a Brad Lidge blown save has kept him from being 3-0. Gonzalez has gone seven innings in each home outing, surrendering a run for the first time in a 7-1 victory over Philadelphia on May 5.
Opponents are hitting .114 at home against Gonzalez, who leads the majors with 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings and will be looking to run the Nats' record in D.C. to 5-0 after a loss.
Gonzalez didn't face Pittsburgh (17-19) last week at PNC Park as the Pirates took two of three. He allowed a solo homer and three other hits over six innings in his lone start against Pittsburgh while with Oakland on June 27, 2010.
Erik Bedard (2-4, 2.57) faced the Nationals (22-14) last Wednesday, but he didn't last long. The left-hander exited after one inning with back spasms, and had his scheduled Monday start pushed back two days.
He's fared well against Washington in the past, posting a 1.35 ERA and striking out 30 in 20 innings.
"Getting him back is a sigh of relief for me," pitching coach Ray Searage told the Pirates' official website.
The Nationals went with a righty-heavy approach against Bedard last week - Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche were the only left-handed hitters in Davey Johnson's lineup - and might want to follow a similar pattern Wednesday. Right-handers are hitting .299 off Bedard, while lefties are 2 for 25 with nine strikeouts.
Washington is hitting .208 against left-handers - the second-worst mark in the NL.
The Pirates are batting .182 (16 for 88) versus lefties since May 3, but they're struggling to score regardless of which side a pitcher is coming from. Pittsburgh was held to six hits - its 11th straight game with eight or fewer - in Tuesday's 6-2 loss at Miami.
The Pirates have scored two runs or fewer in exactly half of their games.
Andrew McCutchen continues to be Pittsburgh's biggest and often only offensive threat, something the Nationals know quite well. The center fielder was 6 of 9 with two homers and three walks - half his team's total - in last week's series, while the rest of the club went 12 for 84 (.143).
McCutchen is hitting .500 (24 for 48) with four homers and a 1.516 OPS during a 13-game hitting streak versus Washington.
LaRoche is 7 for 20 with three homers in his last six games against his former team.
The Associated Press News Service
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