Maholm was tagged for six runs, seven hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings of a 6-0 loss to the Florida Marlins on Tuesday night in Miami. That left his numbers at 0-3 with a 4.30 ERA and, more significant, continued a maddening career-long trend of inconsistency: He is good one start, lousy the next, good for two, lousy for two.
"He wasn't sharp," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The first inning was clean, but after that ... normally, he's a sinker-changeup guy, and it seemed like he went to the breaking ball in some high-intensity situations."
What might have been most exasperating on this night was that Maholm fulfilled his goal of pitching hard and inside to most batters but inexplicably flung a curveball to Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson that resulted in a two-run single.
"It started out great, but I started leaving pitches out over the plate," Maholm said. "But it comes down to my not pitching well. ... I've got probably 30 more starts left. It stinks. I didn't give the team a chance at all to win. You've got to just kind of let it go, get ready for the next start."
Maholm is the Pirates' highest-paid player at $5.75 million, the final guaranteed year of his contract. There is a club option for 2012 worth anywhere from $9.75 million to $11.05 million depending on escalator clauses.
With prospect Rudy Owens, another left-hander, nearly ready at Class AAA Indianapolis, those factors could combine with Maholm's overall performance -- 47-61 with a 4.43 ERA -- to cast him into free agency.
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