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AP - Sports

Gio Gonzalez has seen the Washington Nationals put runs on the board early during their four-game winning streak, but scoring with him on the mound has seemed to be a chore during his recent starts.

He hasn't exactly done himself any favors during his rough stretch, either.

Gonzalez looks to avoid losing a fifth consecutive outing while helping Washington tie its longest winning streak of the season Saturday night against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates, losers of three straight.

The Nationals (67-53) have scored 10 runs in the first three innings during their streak, including a three-run first in Friday's 5-4 win over the Pirates. Denard Span had three hits to end a 0-for-11 slump, while former Pirate Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper each went 2 for 4 with two RBIs.

Washington, which leads the NL East by six games over Atlanta, hasn't lost since Gonzalez (6-9, 4.00 ERA) allowed two runs, walked four and threw 111 pitches in 4 2-3 innings of Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Braves.

He's dropped four consecutive starts for the first time since losing five straight in 2011 while with Oakland, and has a 5.06 ERA in this stretch.

Though the left-hander hasn't been sharp, Washington's offense has provided just two runs of support in his 21 1-3 innings over those four defeats.

Gonzalez wasn't all that displeased about his latest effort.

"My pitch count just ran up from them fouling the ball off, keeping me on my toes," he said. "That's sometimes how the ball goes."

Gonzalez is 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA in four career starts against the Pirates, and gave up three runs while striking out 11 in 5 2-3 innings of Washington's 9-7 win the last time he faced them July 25, 2013.

He's had trouble with Josh Harrison, who is 4 for 6 with two homers off Gonzalez.

Harrison went 0 for 5 in the series opener for Pittsburgh (64-58), which has lost five of seven while involved in tight NL Central and wild-card races. Starling Marte hit a two-run homer and has hit safely in nine of 11 games since coming off the concussion list Aug. 5.

The Pirates look to end their skid with help from Jeff Locke, who is going through a rough patch of his own.

Locke (4-3, 3.98) has won his last two starts, but the Pirates' offense helped him Monday as he gave up four runs and eight hits while walking four in five innings of an 11-6 win over Detroit.

The left-hander's ERA stood at a season-best 2.89 on July 11, but he's gone 2-2 with a 6.00 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break. Aside from his recent issues on the mound, Sports Illustrated reported that Locke was under MLB investigation last year for claims that he and a gambling handicapper conspired to fix games.

Locke was cleared, but he had to answer questions about the report.

"It can be extremely frustrating for me to feel like you have to defend yourself for no reason," Locke told MLB's official website. "But, the dust settles."

Locke's full attention now is on the Nationals, against whom he gave up four runs in five innings of Pittsburgh's 5-4 loss May 4, 2013 - his only start versus Washington.

Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth has missed four straight games with a right shoulder injury, but manager Matt Williams said he could return to the starting lineup either for this contest or Sunday's series finale.

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