If his first three starts of 2013 are any indication, he's finally doing it in his first full season with the Atlanta Braves .
Maholm has yet to allow a run in three convincing victories, a streak he'd love to continue Saturday night at PNC Park against the club that drafted him.
The left-hander was the eighth pick in the 2003 draft by Pittsburgh but was unable to establish himself as a front-line starter with the Pirates (8-8), going 53-73 with a 4.36 ERA from 2005-11.
After signing with the Cubs in 2012, Maholm was shipped to Atlanta in late July and posted a 3.54 ERA in his final 11 starts.
His beginning to 2013 has been spotless. He went 7 2-3 innings in his latest impressive outing, limiting Washington to four hits and striking out seven in a 9-0 victory Sunday.
Maholm (3-0, 0.00 ERA) is the sixth pitcher since 1920 to begin a season with three straight scoreless starts of at least five innings, and only the third since 1966 - joining Woody Williams (2003) and Zack Greinke (2009).
"Pauly has been outstanding, unbelievable," center fielder B.J. Upton told the Braves' official website.
Heading to the visitors' clubhouse at PNC on Saturday won't seem that odd for Maholm since he started there three times last season, going 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA. Maholm gave up two runs and five hits - including a homer to Starling Marte - over seven innings of a 2-1 loss Oct. 1, his lone outing in Pittsburgh with Atlanta.
Marte got a night off Friday after striking out five times in the series opener, but the Pirates' offense was just fine without its leadoff hitter. Pedro Alvarez homered for the second night in a row, one of his team's five extra-base hits in a 6-0 win."The last few days have been pretty good for me. I'm getting in some kind of rhythm now and I'm stringing some good at-bats together," said Alvarez, who may find things tougher Saturday as he's 1 for 24 with 13 strikeouts against lefties since Sept. 23. "Hopefully, things are starting to turn for me. I feel good at the plate."
Pittsburgh's bats may have been overshadowed Friday by a pitching staff that allowed two hits and faced the minimum 27 hitters for the first time since July 25, 1982 - also against the Braves.
Atlanta (13-3) has been shut out in all three of its defeats, but another off night at the plate Saturday may be unlikely.
That's because the Braves will be facing James McDonald (1-2, 5.27), who gave up eight runs - three earned - and eight hits in 1 2-3 innings of a 10-6 loss to St. Louis on Monday.
McDonald fell to 4-7 with a 7.11 ERA in 16 games - 15 starts - since the All-Star break. With Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton due back in May, the right-hander's rotation spot may be on the line.
"I don't want to speculate right now," manager Clint Hurdle told the team's official website. "... I need to sit down and really talk to the guy. I haven't seen anything glaring, but we saw what you saw as far as velocity, finish and command."
McDonald, though, might actually be happy to see the Braves. He's 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA against Atlanta in four starts as a Pirate, striking out 28 in 26 innings.
|April 16, 2013||Luis Avilan||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring injury|
|April 07, 2013||Cristhian Martinez||15-Day DL||Right shoulder strain|
|April 07, 2013||Freddie Freeman||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|April 06, 2013||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Sprained left thumb|
|March 27, 2013||Jonny Venters||15-Day DL||Sprained left elbow|
|March 22, 2013||Brandon Beachy||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|April 09, 2013||Wandy Rodriguez||Day-to-Day||Left game - left leg strain|
|March 26, 2013||Brandon Inge||15-Day DL||Right scapula soreness|
|March 22, 2013||Francisco Liriano||15-Day DL||Fractured right forearm|
|March 22, 2013||Jeff Karstens||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|March 22, 2013||Charlie Morton||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 20, 2013||Chase d'Arnaud||60-Day DL||Left thumb surgery|
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Russell Martin decided to take James McDonald to the movies before Saturday night's game.
Instead of going to the multiplex, they headed to the video room and Martin, usually the Pittsburgh Pirates ' starting catcher, showed a highlight reel to McDonald, the struggling right-hander. The entire video consisted of McDonald striking out batters.
The idea worked as McDonald struck out nine and allowed only one run on two hits as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Atlanta Braves 3-1.
Gaby Sanchez hit a tiebreaking two-run home run in the sixth inning to hand Atlanta (13-4), which has the best record in the major leagues, consecutive losses for the first this season. It also marked the first time the Braves lost a game in which they had scored.
"I know when I'm not hitting well, sometime I'll look all my line drives or hard hit balls," said Martin, who played third base on Saturday while Michael McKenry caught McDonald. "It gives you some positive reinforcement if you're struggling. I thought it might help James out a little bit."
McDonald responded by striking out the side in the first inning, setting down B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton on 13 pitches.
"I was motivated after watching the video," McDonald said. "I wanted to go out and throw well. I wanted to set the tone right from the start and I did. I felt good about the way I threw."
Sanchez's first home run of the season broke a 1-1 tie and capped a three-run sixth. Paul Maholm (3-1) carried a two-hit shutout into the inning and had not allowed a run in 25 1/3 innings this season.
"We had put together some good at-bats against him leading up to that inning and we felt it we stayed patient that we could score some runs off him," Sanchez said. "We just kept putting good at-bats together against him until we broke through."
Maholm allowed three runs and four hits in six innings with three walks and five strikeouts.
"I never really thought about the streak because I knew I was going to give up some runs at some point," Maholm said. "I'm not upset about that. I'm just disappointed that I made two bad pitches, one to (Andrew) McCutchen and one to Gaby that cost us the game."
Starling Marte opened the decisive sixth by drawing a walk and bunted to second by Jose Tabata . McCutchen then drove in Marte to tie it with a double off the right-field wall on a night when fans received a bobblehead doll of the All-Star center fielder.
Sanchez followed by a driving a 1-2 pitch to center field to put the Pirates ahead.
"It was a matter of our hitters sticking with the game plan," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "We stayed patient until Paul left a couple of pitches up in the zone and we hit them."
McCutchen and Sanchez each had two hits.
Jason Grilli pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to stay perfect in save opportunities at 6-for-6.
McDonald (2-2) issued four walks and three came in the second inning when he allowed his only run.
He hit Evan Gattis with a pitch to start the inning and the Braves then loaded the bases on Chris Johnson 's double and a walk to Dan Uggla . One out later, Andrelton Simmons walked to force home Gattis.
McDonald bounced back to strike out Maholm and B.J. Upton to end the inning.
"We just got one (run) there and that hurt," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We get McDonald on the ropes but instead of putting a big crooked number up there or maybe even getting him out of the game, we let him wiggle out of it. We hit some balls hard off him but that was really our only (scoring) chance."
Hurdle had a heart-to-heart talk with McDonald following his previous start and hopes Saturday night's game is a steppingstone in the 28-year-old's career.
"It's like he's two different people," Hurdle said. "Sometimes, he's the guy everyone wants to play behind and other times he's the guy who everyone is wondering why he isn't the guy everyone wants to play behind. At some point, you have to take ownership of your career and I'd like to think James has taken some step in that direction in the last few days."
NOTES: Atlanta 2B Uggla left the game in the middle of the fourth inning with a strained left calf. ... The Braves placed INF Blake DeWitt on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lower back and recalled RHP David Carpenter from Class AAA Gwinnett. ... Martin made the ninth start of his career at third base but first since 2008 with the Los Angeles Dodgers . ... Pirates LHP Francisco Liriano (broken right upper arm), pitching for Class AA Altoona on an injury rehabilitation assignment Saturday, gave up four runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings in a loss to Harrisburg in the Eastern League. ... Atlanta RHP Kris Medlen (1-1, 1.42), who has received just five runs of support in his three starts, pitches Sunday against LHP Jonathan Sanchez (0-2, 12.96) in the finale of the four-game series.