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Target practice

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HOUSTON — Left-hander Paul Maholm is fine, despite taking two hard line drives off his body during last night’s game against the Astros. “I got one in the leg and one in the arm,” Maholm said. “We were playing target practice.”

During his pregame warmup in the bullpen, Maholm’s pitches had plenty of life … but a little too much for his liking.

“It was in the vicinity (of the strike zone), I guess,” Maholm said. “But my last few pitches were good. The first few hitters, I could see the ball was moving a lot. So I just needed to keep the ball down and not give in at any point. There were a couple times when it was 3-1 (count) and I tried to just throw a sinker right down the middle and let them hit it on the ground.”

It worked. Maholm tossed eight outstanding innings, allowing a run on five hits. He walked one and stuck out five. No doubt, he is the Pirates’ ace this season.

Lineups for this afternoons series finale against Houston:

Pirates: McLouth CF, Sanchez 2B, Doumit C, Bay LF, Nady RF, LaRoche 1B, Mientkiewicz 3B, Snell P, Wilson SS.

Astros: Matsui 2B, Bourn CF, Berkman 1B, Lee LF, Loretta SS, Pence RF, Wigginton 3B, Ausmus C, Moehler P
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