WASHINGTON -- There's no secret to what's been hurting the Pirates this season, especially in recent days. They're just not getting enough offensive punch.

But manager Clint Hurdle said Tuesday that he's been pushing and encouraging his players to believe they can shake the early-season problems and find their way at the plate.

The Pirates had a .235 team batting average as they traveled to Cincinnati, next-to-last in the National League. Washington (.225) is the only team that ranks below Pittsburgh.

"Our production has been pretty consistent in the fact that we need more," Hurdle said. "You can't close the book on the guys. I'm going to encourage them. I've been part of it. If we're going to change the direction and the mindset of what's gone on here in the past, this group has got to do that on their own"

Hurdle said he's telling the players to try new things, make adjustments, see what works, see what doesn't. Do something to try and find success.

"You can't feel what you felt before, you can't go where you went before," Hurdle said. "You got to figure it out and stay positive. Somebody's got to spread the elixir out there that it's not a try-harder situation. ... Look for a spot. Look for a zone. Don't change lanes every pitch. Hit with confidence. Hit with bad intentions."

The Pirates have played much better for the first part of this season. Hurdle wants them to not get caught up in the fact that they've struggled at times during their current six-game losing streak, one that's left them with an 18-23 record.

After all, it's only six games.

"It's a long season," Hurdle said. "The one thing I've encouraged the guys that I've talked to today [is that] a week ago, we were 18-17. A lot can happen in a week, but you just got to take care of today."

Mother Nature continues to toy with Morton

WASHINGTON -- Mother Nature hasn't been kind to Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton lately.

He was scheduled to start Tuesday's series finale in Washington before the game was postponed, to be made up at a later date. In his last start, he threw just two innings against the Dodgers last Thursday before that game was delayed and then postponed.

Morton (4-1) now is set to start against the Reds on Wednesday.

"He's thrown his [side sessions], he's stayed in the regimens as much as you control in your regimen," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "He'll pitch tomorrow."

Morton went out and threw before the Pirates packed up and left for Cincinnati.

"I'm going to go play catch and try to get off the mound for a few pitches today," Morton said. "I was preparing for Washington, there's still plenty of time for me to get ready [for the Reds]."

Hanrahan enjoys returns to Washington

WASHINGTON -- Pirates right-hander Joel Hanrahan, a former member of the Nationals, said he enjoys returning to where he used to pitch, but the he tries to treat games at Nationals Park the same as any other.

Hanrahan pitched for parts of three seasons with the Nationals (2007-09). He began as a starter but converted to a reliever, finding success at times but also struggling. He had a 1-3 record with a 7.71 ERA in 34 games in '09 when the Pirates acquired him along with Lastings Milledge in a deal that sent Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett to Washington.

But everything has turned around since then. He went 0-1 with a 1.72 ERA the rest of that season with the Pirates (33 games). Hanrahan then was 4-1 with a 3.62 ERA in 72 games last season. So far this year, while serving as the Bucs' closer, he has posted a 0-1 record in 19 games with a 1.37 ERA and 11 saves in 11 chances.

"It was short and sweet -- short and not sweet, I guess," Hanrahan said. "But it's always fun coming back here. I've got a lot of friends in the area that I met when I was here."

Hanrahan said he focuses on going about his business when the Pirates meet Washington. He's not trying to show his former club anything special.

"Maybe the first time, when I got traded, maybe," Hanrahan said. "But now, it's a business, and the life of a reliever -- not only that -- is you see a lot of guys bouncing around. So you're going to face former teammates wherever you go. It's nothing like, 'This is me now, look at me now.' It's not like that."

Worth noting

• Pirates right-hander Evan Meek was scheduled to pitch on Tuesday in a rehab assignment at Triple-A Indianapolis, according to manager Clint Hurdle. Meek, who is on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, will be reevaluated after the appearance.

• Steve Pearce is 4-for-13 as a pinch-hitter this season. His .308 average in that situation is tied for ninth-best in the National League.

• Shortstop Ronny Cedeno continued his roll in Monday's 4-2 loss in Washington. He went 2-for-3 and raised his average to .243. He's now 14-of-42 in 14 games in May, with hits in 12 contests.

• The Pirates have the No. 1 pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, which begins on June 6. Five of the team's former top picks are on the 25-man roster now -- Paul Maholm (2003), Neil Walker (2004), Andrew McCutchen (2005), Daniel Moskos (2007) and Pedro Alvarez (2008). The Royals (six) is the only Major League team with more No. 1 picks on the 25-man roster.