The Pirates will dodge Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez on Thursday, but they will face a talented young righty in his place. Blake Treinen will make his second big league start when the Nats open a three-game set with the Bucs at PNC Park.
Treinen has performed well in his two stints with Washington as a starter and reliever. He is 0-1 with a 0.77 ERA in four games, the first three in relief. He last pitched May 6, when he allowed three unearned runs in five innings of an 8-3 loss to the Dodgers. That effort prompted Nationals manager Matt Williams to give Treinen another start in place of Gonzalez, who was placed on the disabled list Sunday with left shoulder inflammation.
"It's hard to deny him that opportunity after how he pitched against the Dodgers. It's really hard," Williams said of Treinen. "He was on a limited pitch count. He pitched really well against them. He has been building from there. He has been normal [rest], so he'll be prepared."
Treinen, whose first stint with the Nationals came in mid-April, has been lights-out in the Minors as well. He is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Syracuse. Fellow right-hander Edinson Volquez, who has struggled mightily in May and at home, will go for the Pirates.
Volquez has a 7.88 ERA in three May starts after posting a 3.21 mark in April, and he has a 5.94 ERA in his last three home starts. His biggest issue has been an inability to keep the ball in the yard -- he's surrendered eight home runs in his last 21 2/3 innings, and nine overall. Only three of those home runs have come in Pittsburgh.
"This is a guy who led the league in walks a couple of years ago, and now the conversation is, 'He's throwing too many strikes,'" Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's got to have better misses in the strike zone, expand the zone and move the balls in and out better."
And Volquez isn't the only one who has had his difficulties in PNC Park, as the Bucs have allowed 20 homers in 25 home games.
"We've got to do a better job of owning the plate, and owning portions off the plate," Hurdle said. "Yes, it's about making mistake pitches -- but home runs are also hit from fact there's more comfort in the box when they're facing us."
Nationals: Storen getting the job done
Drew Storen has become a valuable reliever since August 2013. Since that time, Storen is 3-1 with 17 holds, one save and a 1.30 ERA in 39 games.
It helped that the right-hander changed his mechanics and developed a changeup. Storen is often used in the seventh inning or when the game is tied.
Pirates: Hard work paying off for Walker
Neil Walker ranks among the Major League's top second basemen with his nine homers and 25 RBIs, and Hurdle sees nothing accidental about the Pittsburgh native's emergence into stardom.
"He's worked hard to get to this point," said Hurdle, noting that Walker is as proficient as ever at his two staples -- on-base production and defense. "All of it is coming together for him, and it's putting him in a better position to play the best baseball he's ever played in a Pirates uniform."
Walker will make his 46th consecutive start Thursday night, the only Pirates player yet to miss a start this season.
• The Nationals have 14 come-from-behind victories this year.
• Washington is 4-20 when it scores three runs or fewer.
• Ike Davis is batting .410 in his last 13 games following Wednesday night's 3-for-4 effort that included a single with the bases loaded. The former Mets first baseman is 4-for-5 this season with the bases loaded, netting 11 of his 15 RBIs in those situations.
• Andrew McCutchen said goodbye to American League pitchers until late June by going 3-for-4 Wednesday night against Baltimore, improving his average in the Bucs' last 14 home Interleague games to .462 (24-for-52).
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.