The Pittsburgh Pirates have lost a season-high six straight games, and manager Clint Hurdle tried anything he could think of to get his team a win.
Maholm (1-6) has not had great run support — just 14 runs in nine games — and with runners on second and third in the fourth inning and one out, Hurdle signaled for a suicide squeeze.
"We rolled the dice. That one didn't work," Hurdle said.
The game was tied at 2 when Danny Espinosa hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning on the first pitch after Jose Ascanio relieved Maholm.
"We just haven't gotten the ball where we want to get the ball," Hurdle said. "We're trying to go down-and- away. We end up going down-and-in."
Jerry Hairston homered for the Nationals, who managed just six hits — four off Maholm.
"I still feel like I pitched good, but not good enough — again," Maholm said.
Maholm allowed three runs and the four hits in 6 1-3 innings, walking two and striking out seven, and striking out on two sacrifice bunt attempts before converting on a third.
"If I get the bunts down, hopefully that would have opened up the floodgates and scored more runs," Maholm said. "Tonight's just how the season's going for me."
Washington starter John Lannan allowed seven hits in 6 1-3 innings, allowing two runs. Cole Kimball (1-0) earned his first major league win in relief. Drew Storen pitched the ninth for his ninth save in as many chances.
The Pirates gave Maholm the lead in the seventh when Ronny Cedeno walked and Maholm moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Andrew McCutchen then tripled into the right-field corner off Kimball to tie it at 2.
Maholm had retired 12 batters in a row until the fifth inning, when Hairston hit a 3-1 pitch over the left-field wall for his second homer of the season to give Washington a 2-1 lead.
"I just call it things not going our way — that's all," McCutchen said.
"The opportunity was definitely there — more than once or twice. We're swinging the bat well (Maholm) is pitching well. We have to go out there grinding and pretty soon, things are going to go our way."
Both starting pitchers labored early. Lannan threw 26 first-inning pitches and gave up an RBI single to Steve Pearce, while Maholm allowed an RBI single to Wilson Ramos in the opening inning.
The Pirates ran themselves out of another scoring opportunity in the fourth. Brandon Wood was thrown out by Roger Bernadina attempting to go from first to third on a single by Snyder.
"We've come up short, five games in a row — six games in a row," Hurdle said. "The last thing I want to do is come off the accelerator and play station-to-station sitting on our hands."
Notes: Pirates RHP Ross Ohlendorf (shoulder strain) played catch for the fourth straight day. No timetable has been set for him to pitch off the mound. Ohlendorf has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 9. ... McCutchen had his second triple in as many games.