Pittsburgh hopes to stay away from an early deficit for a second consecutive game on Saturday and clinch just its second series win of the season as Maholm goes to the mound to face the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Pirates (6-18) halted a seven-game losing streak—their longest in nearly two years—with a 3-1 victory Friday over the Phillies (9-13) in the opener of this three-game set.
Ian Snell threw seven strong innings for Pittsburgh, which did not give up a first-inning run for the first time in seven games. The team has been outscored 29-7 in the opening frame this season.
“It’s just one of those things,” Maholm said. “Maybe we need to just get out there and relax and not worry about whether it’s the first inning or the eighth inning.”
The rookie left-hander certainly hasn’t pitched that way, allowing seven runs and four homers in the first inning during his four starts. Four of the five runs and five of the seven hits Maholm allowed on Sunday came in the first inning as he pitched a season-low three innings in a 7-2 loss at Houston.
Maholm (0-3, 7.40 ERA) has given up five runs in three of his four starts and has yet to last more than six innings.
Friday’s win followed a six-game road trip for the Pirates, whose only series victory came from April 10-12 with wins in two of three home games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pittsburgh is 5-6 with a .269 batting average at PNC Park, compared to a .238 average and 1-12 record on the road.
Still, the Pirates have failed to score more than three runs in eight consecutive games. Getting a player named Wilson more at-bats with runners in scoring position might help the team offensively.
Both Jack Wilson and Craig Wilson had two opportunities in such situations on Friday and each drove in a run. Jack Wilson is 8-for-13 (.616) and Craig Wilson is 7-for-18 (.389) with runners in scoring position.
Pittsburgh’s Jeromy Burnitz also had two such chances on Friday, grounding into a double play and getting intentionally walked as part of an 0-for-3 night.
He’s in a 2-for-25 slump, failing to drive in a run in seven straight games, but has gone 5-for-11 with two homers against Phillies starter Cory Lidle (2-2, 4.74).
The veteran right-hander has alternated wins and losses through his first four starts, and has not allowed more than four runs in any of them. He’s struck out 27 and walked three in 24 2-3 innings.
Lidle made some adjustments heading into his last start, changing the grip on his splitter and shortening his stride. The moves paid off because he got the win in a 6-5 victory over Colorado, striking out 10 in 6 2-3 innings as he surrendered four runs—three earned—and six hits.
“I don’t think about the result, I think about executing one pitch at a time,” said Lidle, who is 3-0 with a 3.46 ERA in his last four starts against Pittsburgh.
Phillies right fielder Bobby Abreu has reached base in 20 of 22 games this season, and in the two he didn’t, he still had an RBI in each with sacrifice flies.
He’s batting .311 and leads the team with 20 RBIs, two shy of the franchise record for April set by Von Hayes in 1989.