Zito looks to earn his first win against the lowly Nationals when he takes the mound for the San Francisco Giants on Sunday in the decisive game of a three-game series.
It’s been a mostly tough first season in San Francisco for Zito (9-11, 4.59 ERA), who signed a $126 million, seven-year contract with the Giants (62-74) in December, but he was outstanding in August.
Zito went 2-1 with a 2.56 ERA in six starts last month. His worst outing over that stretch, however, was against the Nationals (59-77), surrendering four runs, six hits and three walks in five innings and not receiving a decision in an 8-6 loss on Aug. 7.
The veteran left-hander’s only other start against Washington was on June 7, 2005, when he suffered a loss while pitching for Oakland.
In his last outing, Zito gave up one run and four hits while striking out seven in seven innings against Colorado on Monday night, but did not receive a decision as San Francisco won 4-1.
San Francisco has not been giving its pitchers many runs to work with over the last three games, scoring four runs during that stretch, which includes two losses.
The Giants lost 4-1 on Saturday, getting their lone run via Pedro Feliz’s 17th homer of the season as Washington snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Outfielder Nate Schierholtz, one of San Francisco’s top prospects, was called up before Saturday’s game and singled as a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth. Schierholtz was hitting .333 with 16 home runs, 31 doubles and 68 RBIs in 109 games with Triple-A Fresno.
“We’ll use him off the bench in the next couple days and try to get him in there as much as possible,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the team’s official Web site. “He’s had a great season in Fresno, and he’s a guy we think a lot of.”
San Francisco’s lineup will be facing Matt Chico (5-7, 4.96), who has been recalled from Triple-A Columbus to make his first start for the Nationals since being demoted two weeks ago. Chico is eager to show off a new delivery with a shorter stride, which he worked on in Columbus after noticing a mechanical flaw in video sessions with pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
“I still feel like I’m not using my legs, which in reality I am,” said Chico, who has never faced the Giants. “The shorter stride is probably the biggest thing, because it keeps me going forward instead of side to side.”
The rookie left-hander was the only member of the Nationals’ injury-plagued starting staff not to miss a turn in the rotation before being sent to the minors.
In his last start, Chico allowed four runs, five hits and five walks in 4 1-3 innings of a 6-2 loss to the New York Mets on Aug. 17. He is 1-2 with a 6.50 ERA in his last seven major league starts.
San Francisco and Washington have split six meetings this season entering the teams’ last matchup of 2007.