Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Maholm strong in 4-0 gem

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Small triumphs are the kind that will count as big ones for the Cubs in this transitional season.
There were several in Friday's 4-0 victory against the Houston Astros, including a shutout victory against an opponent on the heels of one of the team's worst losses in their losing season.
``I think the day off [on Thursday] helped and we could forget about Wednesday [a 17-1 loss],'' said Alfonso Soriano, who hit his 15th homer in the sixth off Bud Norris (5-5). ``And Maholm pitched a very good game.''
It was Paul Maholm's (5-6) excellence through 8 1/3 innings that marked the most significant triumph, the left hander holding the Astros to only two singles before the ninth in his 200th career start.
Brian Bixler's one out single and Carlos Lee's double ended Maholm's hopes for a complete game, with Carlos Marmol summoned to end it (sixth save).
``After the last outing, I'll take it,'' a smiling Maholm said, remembering his last start in Arrizona when he lasted only 3 1/3 innings of a 10-5 loss.
Maholm hadn't won a game since May 9, a span of eight starts, with four no decisions and four losses.
``There were four or so that I left tied or with the lead. You don't want to say you did your job if the team doesn't win, but it's much more gratifying to play well and win,'' he said.
But there is an irony to Maholm's success, one that hangs over several Cubs as management weighs whether an improving player has more value as trade bait.
Starting pitching is the most valued baseball commodity, and a successful left handed starter a tantalizing prize.
``I've dealt with that stuff for three years,'' Maholm said of trade rumors. ``[Ryan] Dempster and [Matt] Garza and Sori--it's part of it. All you can do is be prepared to do your job. I've enjoyed it here and love pitching in this park. But all I can do is be prepared for my next start in Atlanta [next week.]''
Maholm walked one and struck out five in bouncing back from his last start.
``Obviously, confidence is a huge factor. You just have to go out confident in your game plan. If you doubt your pitches, they won't be as crisp.
``In Arizona, I didn't make some pitches and I wasn't able to get out of jams that I created. Today, it was being aggressive early. Guys made plays behind me--and three home runs always help.''
The other two came from third baseman Luis Valbuena (third), who continues to make up for the loss of Ian Stewart (wrist injury), and from catcher Steve Clevenger, who hit his first career homer in the fourth with Bryan LaHair on base.
``It's a dream come true to hit a homer in the big leagues, but more important is we got the win and the shutout,'' said Clevenger, a converted shortstop.
Sveum is counting Clevenger's development behind the plate in his book of positives.
``It's the way he calls a game as much as anything,'' Sveum said. ``He's left-handed and puts the bat on the ball, but he seems to catch a lot of gems for us.''
Maholm praised Clevenger as well.
``Clevenger is a young guy who is getting his feet wet and getting confidence in a big league game. He's getting to understand how I pitch. That's always big for young guys, to be on the same page as a starter.''
-30-

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://blogs.suntimes.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/48090

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Toni Ginnetti published on June 29, 2012 5:59 PM.

Castro a ``star'' was the previous entry in this blog.

Cubs Sign Cuban prospect Jorge Soler is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.