Padres look to avoid sweep from Nationals

SAN DIEGO — Gio Gonzalez makes his eighth start of the season Wednesday night at Petco Park as the resurgent Washington Nationals seek to complete a three-game series sweep of the Padres.

Jeremy Hellickson took a perfect game into the seventh inning Tuesday night and combined with three relievers on a three-hit shutout as the Nationals won for the ninth time in their last 10 games.

Now it’s Gonzalez’s shot at the Padres, who are struggling offensively.

It was only Friday night in Monterrey, Mexico, that the Padres were no-hit by four Dodgers pitchers. On April 12, San Diego got one hit — a pinch-hit single by pitcher Clayton Richard — against the Giants.

And Tuesday night marked the fifth time this season that the Padres were shut out — and the fourth time they’ve had three or fewer hits. The Padres are hitting .226 during a 13-24 start.

Gonzalez is 4-2 with a 2.33 ERA and 42 strikeouts over 38 2/3 innings this season. He has allowed 36 hits and 16 walks for a 1.34 WHIP.

This will be Gonzalez’s seventh career start against the Padres. He has a 3-2 record with a 3.50 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP — allowing 18 runs (14 earned) on 36 hits and 13 walks with 33 strikeouts in 36 innings. In one start against the Padres last season, the left-hander allowed one unearned run on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in a Nationals win.

Like many pitchers, Gonzalez has had better success against the Padres in San Diego. He is 2-1 at Petco Park with a 2.55 ERA in four starts. The Padres are hitting only .223 against Gonzalez at Petco Park.

Opposing Gonzalez on Wednesday night for the Padres will be 24-year-old rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi, who takes a 3-2 record with a 3.13 ERA into his first appearance against the Nationals.

Lucchesi is the only member of the Padres rotation with a winning record and one of two pitchers on the entire staff with more wins than losses. He is also the only Padres pitcher with three wins and also has the lowest ERA among Padres starters.

Wednesday will be Lucchesi’s eighth start. He has given up 15 runs (13 earned) on 31 hits and 13 walks with 40 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings Opposing hitters are batting .228 against Lucchesi.

But the 6-foot-5 left-hander with the funky delivery (ending with a high leg kick), has not been as sharp as late as he was over his first four outings — when he went 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA.

Lucchesi allowed three runs on five hits and three walks in five innings against the Dodgers on Friday as the Padres were being no-hit. Over his last three starts, Lucchesi has given up nine runs on 14 hits and nine walks with 15 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings over his last three starts. Four of the hits have been home runs accounting for six of the runs.