Chico's consistency can't be ignored

Syracuse Chiefs pitcher Matt Chico has not allowed a run in two consecutive starts, a span of 14 innings in a pair of home-and-away matchups against Pawtucket.

The numbers are impressive in those last two starts: 14.0 IP, 6 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts. His shutout streak is currently 14 innings.

Chico (4-3, 3.00) says the key to his recent success has been "hitting both sides of the plate. I have been using the two-seam fastball a lot. The changeup has been pretty good lately.

"In my last two starts, I have found my changeup to lefties which helps my fastball away.

Which fastball are you using the most right now?

"I am using my two-seamer about 70 percent of the time. It is sinking three to four inches.

"I have used my curveball a lot more the last two starts. I threw 10 curveballs per game. I used to only go to it twice per game. It is comforting to know I have confidence in the curve to throw it to hitters at any time.

"Last night I threw a couple curves early and a couple late. I am not that comfortable throwing it on 2-0, but it certainly is becoming another pitch I can go to and mix things up."

How about the slider?

"I kind of lost the slider a few starts back versus Buffalo. Since then, though, it is starting to come back. It is sharp and I am throwing it with conviction. I am no longer just flipping it up there."

It makes sense that the lefthander would be a good selection to get back in the Nats rotation when the opportunity presents itself, whether to keep Stephen Strasburg's inning count down or if another starter struggles.

Chico made 39 starts for the Nats in 2007 and 2008. He also held his own in a quick call-up spot start in May.

His next scheduled start for Syracuse is July 23 at Durham.

Chico told me he is good friends with Reds rookie pitcher Mike Leake. He has known his since they were four or five years old. Chico and Leake had the same baseball coach at Fallbrook High School in California. They went to the school at different times, but Matt played alongside Mike's brother Ryan Leake and their families know each other very well.

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