ShareThis Page

Maholm ends another Pirates skid

| Friday, July 27, 2007

NEW YORK - The Pirates' best pitcher these days isn't Tom Gorzelanny, the team leader in victories, or last year's ace Ian Snell.

It's a left-hander who entered the week tied for the second-most losses in the majors.

Paul Maholm (7-12) got his second win since the All-Star break - the team's only victories in that span - and the Pirates solved former teammate Oliver Perez in an 8-4 victory over the Mets on Thursday afternoon at Shea Stadium.

"What we saw today has pretty much been Paul Maholm," manager Jim Tracy said. "He's been doing that on a regular basis for quite a while now. It was another quality start, and there's been a bunch of them."

First baseman Josh Phelps, making his first start in three weeks in place of flu-ridden Adam LaRoche, enjoyed his best game as a Pirate, going 3 for 4 with a home run, a double and three RBI.

Maholm (six innings, three earned runs), who also beat Houston on July 21 to snap a seven-game Pirates' losing streak, gave another strong start as Gorzelanny battles shoulder stiffness and Snell is mired in a three-game, second-half skid.

The second-year pitcher stymied a Mets lineup that had averaged seven runs on 11 hits in lopsided victories over the Pirates' two more-heralded pitchers to win his third game in the past four starts.

It was only the second win in the Pirates' past 12 games and prevented a series sweep by the first-place Mets. The Pirates now head to Philadelphia for a three-game series against another NL East contender.

"I think the comfort level is out there, where I can just go and challenge hitters," Maholm said. "I hit my spots and get ahead and change speeds and not really have to give into them a whole lot."

Only two pitchers in baseball have more losses than Maholm, but his poor record is a reflection of inadequate run support (he is second-to-last in the National League at 3.43 runs per game) rather than his own doing. In his past six losses, the Pirates scored a total of 12 runs.

When the Mets took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a single, stolen base, groundout and a sacrifice fly, and Perez (9-7) started mowing down the Pirates batters, it looked like Maholm would be another tough-luck loser.

But the Pirates scored five unearned runs - thanks to a Perez throwing error - in the sixth to take a 5-1 lead. Maholm left after the sixth, and the Pirates added three more runs for an 8-2 lead.

"He kept the ball down and moved his pitches in and out," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "He did all of the things conducive to pitching a good ballgame."

Maholm was a second-half pitcher last season, too, going 5-1 in his last 10 starts. Tracy expects a strong finish for Maholm, who was 4-11 at one point this year.

"He's got another 13-14 starts left," Tracy said. "Let's see where that takes him."

Maholm contributed at the plate in the pivotal sixth inning. Perez had retired 11 in a row entering the inning, but Nate McLouth, batting eighth for the first time this season, singled, and Maholm reached on a two-strike slug-bunt that lobbed over third baseman David Wright.

"Luck," Maholm said.

That's when Perez made his first mistake - and it didn't come on a pitch. Cesar Izturis rolled a sacrifice bunt down the third-base line and Perez fielded the ball and launched a hurried throw into right field. McLouth's run tied the score at 1-all.

After two quick outs, the Pirates looked poised to waste another opportunity with runners at second and third. But Nady lined a two-run single and Phelps followed with a two-run homer to left-center for a 5-1 lead.

Lastings Milledge homered in the bottom of the sixth for a 5-2 deficit, but the Pirates strung together five consecutive two-out hits - four singles and a double -- in the seventh inning to take a 8-2 lead.

"Early, (Perez) was throwing great," Maholm said. "We got a couple bloops and took advantage of it. It's one of those things where you just want to keep your team in the game."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me