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Atlanta at Pittsburgh

Venue: PNC Park
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Paul Maholm showed occasional flashes of excellence, but never lived up to his potential in seven years with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Probable Starters

Paul Maholm, LHP
2013 stats
20.1 Innings Pitched 13.2
3-0 Wins-Losses 1-2
0.00 Earned Run Average 5.27
5 Walks 8
20 Strikeouts 9
103 Pitches Per Start 77
Career vs. opponent
20.0 Innings Pitched 30.0
1-1 Wins-Losses 3-0
2.25 Earned Run Average 1.50

James McDonald, RHP
Weather
weather image  Partly cloudy. Cool.
Hi TempLo TempWindHumidityPrecip %
48°F36°F16mph/W42%16%
Standings
TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
Atlanta2nd NL East7677.497132-8 L 1
Pittsburgh2nd NL Central8370.54228-2 W 5
 
 
Game Odds
AwayLineHomeLine
Atlanta -130 Pittsburgh 120
Injuries
Atlanta
PlayerInjury
B. BeachyElbow
P. BeatoElbow
G. FloydElbow
E. GattisIllness
C. GearrinElbow
J. HeywardThumb
K. MedlenElbow
S. SimmonsShoulder
J. VentersElbow
Pittsburgh
PlayerInjury
P. AlvarezFoot
C. MortonHernia
 
Series Game Log
DateatResult/TimeWinnerLoser
Apr 11MILMIL 4-2Peralta Liriano 
Apr 12MILMIL 3-2Henderson Melancon 
Apr 13MILMIL 4-1Lohse Morton 
Apr 17PITPIT 11-2Volquez Wooten 
Apr 18PITMIL 5-3Lohse Morton 
Apr 19PITMIL 8-7Henderson Grilli 
Apr 20PITMIL 3-2Duke Gomez 
May 13MILMIL 5-2Estrada Cole 
May 14MILPIT 4-1Watson Rodriguez 
May 15MILMIL 4-3Wooten Melancon 
Jun 6PITPIT 15-5Cumpton Lohse 
Jun 7PITMIL 9-3Garza Volquez 
Jun 8PITMIL 1-0Gallardo Locke 
Aug 22MILPIT 8-3Locke Gallardo 
Aug 23MILPIT 10-2Volquez Peralta 
Aug 24MILMIL 4-3Fiers Worley 
Sep 19PITPIT 4-2  
Sep 20PIT 7:05 PM EDT  
Sep 21PIT 1:35 PM EDT