The Pirates haven't lost a series against the Nationals on the road since June 2010, and they'll look to keep that streak intact as they visit Washington for a three-game set this weekend.
The Bucs, who trail the Brewers by 2 1/2 games in the National League Central, are seeking to fill a huge gap in their lineup after Andrew McCutchen hit the disabled list with a fractured rib on his left side. One surprising player who may help fill the void is Travis Snider, who's batting 7-for-15 with three homers and seven RBIs in his last four games. Since the All-Star break, he's batting .312.
"He's provided us with offense, which is what we've looked for from a number of different people in Andrew's absence," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "He's always played solid defense, whichever corner we've had him in. The bat production, the driving in runs, it's given us a shot in the arm at a really important time."
Snider may be subdued this weekend, though, thanks to the distant left-field power alley in Nationals Park.
"He has been stubborn with his approach all season," Hurdle added. "He has been trying to hit the ball from gap to gap. He's trying to get short to the ball and long through the ball. His aim is out to the big part of the field, left-center field."
On the mound, the Pirates will start things off with Charlie Morton, who went only five innings and allowed five runs in his last start against San Diego. All of those runs came in his final two innings.
"It was almost like two outings for him: One-three and four and five," Hurdle said. "It was two different sides of it. It's not what he was looking for, not what we were looking for, but it's what we got and we had to play on."
He'll go up against Tanner Roark, who has pitched precisely seven innings and allowed only one run in five of his last six starts, including against the Braves last Saturday.
The first-place Nationals hold a season-high six-game advantage over Atlanta in the NL East.
Nationals: Werth could return to action
Right fielder Jayson Werth reported improvement to manager Matt Williams on Thursday a day after getting a cortisone shot to help treat an AC joint sprain in his injured right shoulder.
While he was unavailable for the Nationals' three-game sweep at the Mets, Werth might come off the bench against the Pirates starting in Friday's series opener at Nationals Park. Williams said there is a possibility that Werth could start Saturday night.
"He said today he feels a lot better," Williams said Thursday. "He said he is about 50 percent better, so that is a good sign. It means the anti-inflammatory medication is working. We'll see what he looks like [Friday]. Potentially, we could give him some work, let him start swinging."
Pirates: Hurdle pleased with Marte in center field
With Andrew McCutchen on the disabled list with a fractured rib on his left side, Starling Marte has shifted over to center field, his old stomping grounds. Hurdle is more than pleased with his depth at that position, between McCutchen, Marte and Gregory Polanco.
"I've never been in a situation like this before," Hurdle said. "If this one would need a day off, I've got another pure center fielder that we can plug right in. We're three deep at that position, and three very skilled performers defensively. It's got to be fun for Marte to revisit something that you've done for a very long period of time."
• Pirates catcher Russell Martin enters Friday with an 11-game hitting streak.
• Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche is 3-for-5 against Morton in his career with a home run and four RBIs.