By WILL GRAVES
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Francisco Liriano allowed three hits over six-plus dominant innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates raced by the Washington Nationals 7-3 on Thursday night.
Liriano (6-6) struck out 11 against three walks as the Pirates returned from a miserable post All-Star break road trip to drop the NL East-leading Nationals. Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Francisco Cervelli homered for Pittsburgh, which ended a seven-game losing streak to Washington.
Starling Marte and Jung Ho Kang added two hits apiece for the Pirates, who acquired third baseman Aramis Ramirez from Milwaukee before the game to bolster an infield dealing with injuries to Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer.
Doug Fister (3-6) labored through five innings, giving up four runs and nine hits to drop his third straight decision. Ian Desmond had two of Washington's six hits, including a two-run homer in the ninth.
The Pirates came home for a brief four-game series against the Nationals following a bumpy start to the season's second half. Pittsburgh dropped five of six on the road and watched Mercer join Harrison on the disabled list with a sprained left knee. Neither player will return until late-August at the earliest, leading the Pirates to bring back the 37-year-old Ramirez a dozen years to the day they shipped him to the Chicago Cubs.
Pittsburgh hopes Ramirez can provide some punch to an offense that can be spotty at times. Pitching isn't an issue for the team with the second-best ERA in the majors, and Liriano had little trouble overwhelming the Nationals. He struck out nine of the first 13 batters he faced and didn't allow a ball out of the infield until Desmond's single to left with Clint Robinson on first and no outs in the fifth.
Robinson eventually scored following a pair of wild pitches by Liriano, who settled down to get out of the inning with a 2-1 lead intact.
Pittsburgh quickly added on to give Liriano plenty of room to work. Marte singled off Fister with one out in the bottom of the fifth and scored on a double by Kang, who then came home following a fielder's choice by Alvarez to make it 4-1. Liriano eventually left after giving up a leadoff double to Robinson in the seventh, but reliever Jared Hughes left Robinson stranded at third.
McCutchen's 13th homer of the season -- a two-run shot off Tanner Roark in the seventh -- pushed Pittsburgh's lead to five as Pittsburgh improved to 10-1 in their last 11 games at PNC Park.
Washington: 3B Yunel Escobar did not start, but was available to play a day after collapsing to the ground in pain while trying to check his swing against the Mets. X-rays and a CT scan on Escobar's left wrist were negative.
Pittsburgh: Mercer walked into the clubhouse with barely a limp on Thursday and is optimistic he will be back sooner rather than later after heading to the 15-day disabled list on Monday with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Mercer injured the knee following a hard slide into second by Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez.
Nationals: Max Scherzer faces the Pirates for the first time since tossing the first no-hitter of his career against Pittsburgh last month. Scherzer struck out 10 and came within a strike of a perfect game a 6-0 win on June 20, his only misstep coming when he hit Pittsburgh pinch-hitter Jose Tabata in the elbow with two outs in the ninth. Scherzer is 10-8 overall but just 1-3 in July thanks in large part to a lack of support. The Nationals have managed one run in the three losses.
Pirates: Jeff Locke (5-6, 4.01 ERA) has a 2.53 ERA in two starts against Washington, both non-decisions.