Postgame: A tough start


Paul Maholm
seemed a bit preoccupied by his ongoing first-inning struggles Friday after the Pirates’ 3-2 loss against the Astros.

Maholm has allowed a total of seven runs in the first innings of his seven starts. Tonight was the fourth time this year the opposition had scored in its first at-bats against the left-hander.

The opening frame always has been tough for Maholm. Over his career, he has a 5.91 ERA in the first inning, a higher mark than in any other inning.

Tonight, Maholm quickly got into trouble by allowing a back-to-back singles to Jason Bourgeois and Michael Bourn. A sac fly gave the Astros a 1-0 lead.

After two walks and a wild pitch, the Astros had the bases loaded with two outs. Clint Barmes could have turned the inning into a total disaster, but instead grounded out to snuff the threat.

Maholm labored through 30 pitches, but yielded just one run. It was a nice, solid recovery and, as it turned out, boded well for the rest of his outing.

But when I started to ask Maholm about his great escape and how it set him up for the six strong innings that followed, he cut me off mid-question.

“I gave up one run,” Maholm snapped. “Get over it. I threw seven innings (and allowed) one run. Does it really matter if it’s the first or the fifth? I cruised for the rest of the time. Would I like to have a clean inning? Sure, but overall results are pretty much what we’re going for.”

Actually, that was going to be my point.

“It’s … I don’t know what it is about the first, but it is what it is,” Maholm said. “I got into a groove and, hopefully, I can come in next time and have that in the first inning.”

»»» Maholm was in line to notch his 32nd career win at PNC Park, which would have made him the winningest pitcher at the North Shore ballpark, until the Astros went ahead in the eighth. Instead, Maholm remains tied with fellow lefty Zach Duke.

»»» The Pirates have scored a total of 11 runs while Maholm has been on the mound this year. They have scored either one or zero runs in his four losses. “The guys are going to start swinging for me,” Maholm said. “I’ve got confidence in those guys.”

»»» Maholm went 9-15 last season and is off to a is 1-4 start this year. The bright side: he’s pitched seven innings in four of his past five games. The downside: “We’ve lost six out of my seven games, so it’s not really a whole lot of fun every time, talking to you (media) guys, trying to find a moral victory in the whole thing,” Maholm said. “We’ll go back to the drawing board, grind it out and keep going out there, trying to get on the other side of it.”