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SF@PIT: Morton dominates the Giants over eight frames

Charlie Morton may not have a win to his name since Sept. 2 of last season, but the Pirates' right-hander does not get caught up in that. He also knows it could be worse.

"I don't dwell on that stuff, I really don't. I haven't been doing stuff like that guy in Chicago," Morton said Wednesday, referencing Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, who is winless in 10 starts this season despite a Major League-low ERA of 1.46. "Now that's sick. Besides, these days, wins and losses aren't as significant for starting pitchers. I look at innings pitched and ERA."

Morton will take his 0-6 record and much more telling 3.45 ERA to the mound with him as the Pirates host the Nationals on Friday night in the second of a four-game Memorial Day weekend set at PNC Park.

As Morton stated, a pitcher's record sometimes does not tell the whole story. A lack of run support and bad luck -- among other variables -- have led to a 14-start winless streak for Morton, despite his respectable 3.69 ERA during that span.

Morton has a 2.39 ERA in four May starts and has been durable all season, going at least six frames in eight of his nine starts. But the Pirates are 3-6 in those games, averaging just 3.1 runs per contest.

Washington will send Jordan Zimmermann to the mound in what will be his second career start against the Pirates. He allowed four runs in six innings while dropping his only previous outing against them.

Zimmermann's season ERA is a shade higher than Morton's at 3.70, but the righty has been able to find the win column three times to just one loss this season. His latest victory came in his last start when he held the Mets to three runs on eight hits in six innings.

Pirates: Martin to return to lineup Friday
Russell Martin is expected to return to his post behind the plate Friday after a four-week stint on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.

Martin was activated from the DL on Thursday, but did not play in Pittsburgh's 3-1 win over the Nationals because he was serving a one-game suspension from his role in a bench-clearing scuffle with Milwaukee on April 20. The 31-year-old catcher did not go on an assignment, but he did catch multiple bullpen sessions.

"Russell has met every ask, challenge, demand that we've thrown out there outside of going and playing Minor League games," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The other day, that was a topic that we talked about, and we got to a place where that wasn't going to be something that needed to be done based on what he was able to accomplish here and the work he's done."

Martin, who signed a two-year deal with the Pirates prior to the 2013 campaign, was hitting .242 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 16 games before the injury.

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez was designated for assignment Thursday to make room for Martin, who joins Tony Sanchez and Chris Stewart as catchers on the active roster. It's likely Sanchez will be sent down to Triple-A when the Pirates make a move to bring in an arm to fill Rodriguez's spot in the rotation.

Nationals: LaRoche begins rehab assignment
Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche played in a game Thursday for the first time since going on the disabled list with a strained right quad earlier this month.

LaRoche played five innings and went 0-for-2 with Class A Advanced Potomac. He will continue his rehab assignment Friday with Double-A Harrisburg, and could return to the Nationals' lineup either Sunday or Monday.

The 10-year Major League veteran was hitting .319 with five home runs, 21 RBIs and a .925 before being sidelined. In LaRoche's stead, Tyler Moore has received most of the playing time at first base for the Nationals. Moore went 0-for-3 on Thursday and is hitting .206 on the season.

Worth noting
• The Nationals are 4-22 when they score three runs or fewer this season. On the flip side, the team is 20-1 when plating four or more runs.

• Pirates outfielder Josh Harrison was atop Hurdle's lineup card for the 10th time this season Thursday and went 2-for-4 with an RBI single while adding a spectacular diving catch in the field. Harrison is hitting .351 (13-for-37) in the leadoff spot in 2014.

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