Despite Stats, Chico Sees Improvement

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 4, 2008

Washington Nationals left-hander Matt Chico had this take on his start yesterday afternoon, one in which he was charged with four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings and gave back a four-run lead in what became a 9-8 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates:

"I'm taking a lot of positives out of this one that I haven't in the past three or four," he said. "I threw a lot more inside than I was in the past, getting them off certain pitches. . . . It's one of those where I feel much more comfortable with this one than I was the last three."

Still, the results left Chico winless in seven starts, and his ERA crept farther north, to 6.87. Manager Manny Acta called Chico "erratic," and catcher Paul Lo Duca reported that he was cutting off his pitches. There is, too, the matter of how to pitch with a lead.

"You got to look at it as a 0-0 ballgame regardless of what the score is," Chico said. "If you start looking at it as a lead, you're going to get too relaxed."

Acta, though, prefers a different approach.

"When you do have a lead, you should challenge guys more instead of going out there and walking guys and putting guys on bases," Acta said. "You should feel more relaxed. . . . You should just be eager to get on the mound and throw strikes and challenge guys."

Chico's ERA in his last four starts is 10.38, a span in which opposing batters are hitting .397 off him. Yet he said he can't worry about his job.

"You start thinking about that, you're just going to go faster downhill," he said.

Negro Leagues Honored

The Nationals and Pirates honored the Negro leagues by each wearing uniforms of the Homestead Grays, which called both Pittsburgh and Washington home in the 1930s and '40s.

"It's nice that they don't forget what went on before we got over here," Acta said. "We're kind of spoiled nowadays, and at least we're remembering those guys, what they went through back in those days. It's a good tribute."

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