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PIT@ATL: Burnett strikes out eight over six innings

Few pitchers in Major League history have faced the sort of rebound opportunity that Pirates starter A.J. Burnett will get on Tuesday night, when Pittsburgh hosts Washington in the opener of a three-game series.

Against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Burnett became the first Pirates pitcher in 80 years to allow 12 earned runs in a game. He did it on 12 hits in 2 2/3 innings, making him the second player since 1948 to surrender that many runs in no more than three innings.

The veteran right-hander, who had a 1.38 ERA in his first two starts, is eager to get back on the mound.

"I couldn't wait to get to the 'pen, I couldn't wait to work out, get back to throwing downhill," Burnett said. "My only problem [against the Cardinals] was being up. I wasn't able to get to the bullpen fast enough, to make adjustments and get back down [in the strike zone] where I belong."

Burnett will have to take on the Nationals, who followed five straight losses with a four-game winning streak heading into Sunday night's game against the Phillies, which they lost, 9-3. Washington (18-10) still exited Sunday's action tied for the third-best record in the Major Leagues.

Nationals starter Edwin Jackson spurned the Pirates' free-agent offer before the club acquired Burnett from the Yankees.

Jackson is 1-1 with a 3.69 ERA in five starts after signing a one-year deal with Washington for $11 million. He gave up four earned runs in six innings while logging a no-decision against the D-backs in his last outing.

In that game, it was the Nats' relievers -- Craig Stammen and Henry Rodriguez -- who held the D-backs in check the rest of the game, allowing the team to make its comeback.

"We are always in it until the last out," Stammen said.

Nationals: Zimmerman aiming for Tuesday return
• Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman hasn't played since April 20 because of an inflamed right shoulder that landed him on the 15-day disabled list.

But Zimmerman was issue free during a soft-toss hitting session on Saturday and was scheduled to take batting practice on Sunday. Following the team's off-day, Zimmerman could return on Tuesday as the Nationals start a six-game road trip.

Zimmerman was batting .224 with a .668 OPS, one home run and seven RBIs before going on the DL.

• Outfielder Rick Ankiel posted consecutive three-hit games on Friday and Saturday after going 4-for-25 (.160) in his previous nine contests. It was the fifth time in his career that Ankiel had back-to-back three-hit efforts.

With three such games already this season, Ankiel has matched his total from 2011 and exceeded his total from 2010. Ankiel went 0-for-4 on Sunday, but scored a run.

Pirates: McCutchen getting well
• Outfielder Andrew McCutchen went 1-for-3 in his return to the lineup on Saturday after missing three games with the stomach flu.

But manager Clint Hurdle took advantage of Monday's scheduled off-day by holding McCutchen out of the lineup again on Sunday to give him two days' rest.

• Burnett has made 13 career starts against the Nationals franchise but none since 2006, the club's second year in Washington after moving from Montreal.

Worth noting
• Hurdle will be managing against the Nationals' Davey Johnson, whom he played for with the 1985 and '87 Mets. Johnson is the only active skipper to have managed Hurdle during his 10-year big league career.

• Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, a former Pirate, is sixth all-time with 34 home runs at PNC Park. He is one ahead of current Pirate Garrett Jones.

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