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First things first for Bucs' Maholm

Kevin Gorman
| Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Paul Maholm might be ready to snap in frustration over his first-inning follies, given that the left-hander has allowed a combined seven runs in the first frame of seven starts this season.

Maholm couldn't help but laugh after Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage suggested a solution.

"I might have him throw the first inning down there in the bullpen because he's having problems getting it going," Searage said, with a wink. "He's got to stay aggressive right from pitch one. That's what he has to understand, and that's what we talked about so, hopefully, that'll change in his next start."

That comes today, when Maholm faces the Los Angeles Dodgers and attempts to become the winningest pitcher at PNC Park. With 31 victories in five-plus season, Maholm is tied with Zach Duke. Maholm, however, can't help wonder if it shouldn't have happened already. The Pirates have scored three or fewer runs in six of his seven starts, have scored only 11 total runs and have a 1-6 record when Maholm (1-4, 3.68 ERA) pitches.

"I'm going out there every fifth day and giving the team a chance," said Maholm, who has two no-decisions. "I would love to have a better record, but in the overall scheme of things, I've pitched well. Hopefully, the runs will start pouring in, and we can go on a better run because it's seems like things are going well, then we lose the games I pitch, and it starts back up."

Maholm takes comfort in that he has lasted seven innings in four starts and entered Tuesday night's game leading Pirates pitchers with 29 strikeouts -- including eight in his lone win, a 4-2 victory over the Nationals on April 25 -- and retired 13 of 21 Astros on ground balls in his last start.

"That's the biggest thing with Paul: you know what you're going to get from him. He's consistent, not just from a pitching standpoint but a mentality standpoint," second baseman Neil Walker said. "He's going to go out there and work his butt off, give you everything he's got. Hopefully, he's going to get you into late innings. We haven't given him the run support that we needed, but we feel very confident when Paul is on the mound."

Maholm shares the sentiment, even though a Walker error proved costly in the home opener against Colorado, the bullpen has blown leads in two losses, and the Pirates have scored one run or less in four of his starts.

"That's just part of the game," Maholm said. "My job is to go out there, to get deep into the game and give the team a chance to win the game. They're going to bail me out more times than not. I have all the confidence in the world for the guys to give me a lead, the defense to take care of me, and the bullpen to finish it off. For me, it's got to be consistency, going out there and going seven-plus innings and giving us a chance."

In the offseason, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle showed Maholm the scouting report Hurdle had on him while with the Colorado Rockies, an eye-opening experience that let the pitcher know where he was predictable. Searage tweaked Maholm's delivery with subtle changes and has urged him to pitch inside more consistently and get ahead in the count more quickly.

"He has made every conscious effort to change reports and," Hurdle said, knocking twice on his office desk, "at this date and time, he's changed some reports. You've got to look at Paul a different way when you go to prepare for him offensively than you did the last few seasons."

Now, in his sixth season, Maholm hopes it starts to show up in his record.

"We're winning, and that's the only important thing," Maholm said. "Hopefully, we can start winning some of my games."

Additional Information:

Seeking support

Paul Maholm has pitched seven innings in four of his seven starts, but the Pirates have scored only 11 runs when he is on the mound:

April 2 @ Chicago (5-3 loss*): 6.2 IP, 5 hits, 0 earned runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

April 7 Colorado (7-1 loss): 5.2 IP, 8 hits, 3 earned runs, 0 walks, 1 strikeout

April 14 Milwaukee (4-1 loss): 7.0 IP, 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts

April 19 @ Florida (6-0 loss): 3.2 IP, 7 hits, 6 earned runs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

April 25 Washington (4-2 win): 7.0 IP, 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts

April 30 @ Colorado (4-1 loss): 7.0 IP, 7 hits, 4 earned runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts

May 6 Houston (3-2 loss*): 7.0 IP, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

* No decision

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