WASHINGTON (AP) — Francisco Liriano knows what it feels like to pitch an entire game without allowing a hit.
Good as he was Wednesday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander wasn't about to allow his mind to start wandering in that direction too soon.
Liriano did not allow a hit until the sixth inning against a struggling and depleted Nationals lineup, and Pedro Alvarez homered off an otherwise-dominant Stephen Strasburg, leading Pittsburgh past Washington 4-2.
"Everything was working the way I wanted," said Liriano (10-4), who wound up giving up two singles across 7 2-3 innings while striking out eight batters.
Liriano threw a no-hitter for the Twins against the White Sox on May 3, 2011, but on Wednesday, he said, "I think (it) was too early in the game to think about it. It was the fifth inning. I just want to give a chance to the guys to win a ballgame."
He managed to do just that on a night that Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg (5-8) was terrific.
Strasburg struck out 12 and did not walk anyone in eight innings. He gave up only one run and two hits, all in the second inning. That included a leadoff shot by Pedro Alvarez, who drove a 96 mph fastball over the wall in right-center for his 26th homer.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the homer gave him goose bumps.
"The wind is blowing in. When that ball is hit, I'm thinking, 'OK, he's on second.' And then I see some fans stand up and I go, 'Wait a minute.' ... A backspin 2-iron. I've seen a lot of home runs. I've seen a lot of hard-hit balls," Hurdle said. "But that one got my attention."
It was Strasburg's ninth career game with 10 or more strikeouts and first this season. His career high remains the 14 Ks from his major league debut on June 8, 2010, against Pittsburgh.
But the Nationals fell to 0-6 since the All-Star break — scoring a grand total of 13 runs in that span — and have lost 11 of their last 13 games.
"We need to win some games," Strasburg said. "It's getting to the point where our back's against the wall."