Chico looks to snap a personal five-game losing streak as he takes the mound for a Nationals team trying to bounce back from a rout as they continue a four-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.
Washington (12-18) had a season-high four-game winning streak end Friday night, losing 11-4 to Pittsburgh (12-17). The Nationals, who had won seven of nine after a terrible start, hadn’t lost since a 7-0 defeat to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night.
Chico (0-5, 6.68 ERA) started that game and was reached for five runs and eight hits in four innings. The left-hander has lost all of his starts since his first outing of the season, and has an 11.08 ERA over his last three starts.
Washington manager Manny Acta hopes an extra day of rest and some additional work with pitching coach Randy St. Claire will help Chico break out of his early season struggles.
“An extra day is always good, especially when you’re not doing that well,” Acta said. “We’ll see. There’s no guarantee that he’s going to go out there and do great or do bad.”
A matchup with the Pirates also may help Chico’s confidence. He did not receive a decision despite posting a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Pirates as a rookie last season.
Catcher Paul Lo Duca hasn’t been Chico’s batterymate since the Nationals’ second game of the season, but he will be behind the plate Saturday. Lo Duca, who was on the 15-day disabled list with a right hand contusion, returned from a minor league rehabilitation assignment Friday.
Wil Nieves was Friday’s starting catcher, but Acta plans to have Lo Duca in the lineup Saturday. Lo Duca was hitting .200 with four RBIs when he was hurt, and will try to help a struggling lineup that had just one hit in the final five innings of Friday’s loss.
Washington will now face Pittsburgh’s Paul Maholm (2-2, 3.26 ERA), who has allowed just two runs in 15 innings in winning his last two starts. The left-hander threw a two-hitter against Philadelphia on Sunday, when Pittsburgh won 5-1.
Maholm, though, is 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA in two career starts against Washington.
Sunday’s win was the first time he received more than three runs of support. Pittsburgh’s lineup has been heating up recently, topping 10 runs in two of its last three games. After being held to two runs and losing the opener of this series, the Pirates went 6-for-12 with runners in scoring position to win for the third time in their last five games.
Jose Bautista, who had been struggling, homered twice and drove in four runs.
“He’s been working awfully hard with the hitting coach (Don Long) to correct a couple of things we thought would make him better, and he’s really stayed with it,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “He’s gotten much better every game.”