Maholm, Pirates top Reds

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Paul Maholm threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 28 batters he faced Wednesday, a formula that led to a big night for the left-hander.

Maholm went eight solid innings, and Jason Michaels and Brandon Moss homered to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates past the Cincinnati Reds 5-2.

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Maholm (8-7), who improved to 6-1 with a 3.06 ERA at PNC Park this season, allowed seven hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out five in an efficient 97-pitch outing.

The game was played in a crisp 2 hours, 14 minutes.

‘‘The key was going after them and staying ahead in the count,’’ Maholm said. ‘‘I was trying to get deep into the game and let the load off our bullpen.’’

The 25-year-old, a No. 8 overall draft pick by the Pirates in 2003, has developed into the team’s most reliable starter. He has a 2.81 ERA in his last 14 starts and has pitched at least six innings in his past 18 outings.

‘‘He’s been very good for us, obviously,’’ Pittsburgh manager John Russell said. ‘‘When we send him out there, we know we have a good chance to win.’’

Corey Patterson and Jay Bruce homered for Cincinnati, which has lost 15 of 18 games.

Just one other baserunner advanced to second against Maholm. Three Cincinnati hits were wiped out by double plays, and third baseman Andy LaRoche made two diving stops.

‘‘The left side of their infield is really alert because he’s throwing sinkers and changeups out there,’’ Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. ‘‘He’s been great of late, but he got some defensive help, and they turned some double plays.’’

Ryan Doumit had a two-run double, and Michaels and Moss both had two hits for the Pirates. John Grabow pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save.

Josh Fogg (2-5) breezed through the first four innings, allowing two hits, before running into trouble in the fifth.

Moss led off with a double, and Michaels followed with his eighth home run. Pittsburgh loaded the bases on two walks and a single before Doumit ended Fogg’s night with a drive off the top of the right-field wall that was ruled a double because of fan interference.

‘‘He was pitching well until that one inning,’’ Baker said. ‘‘He had them off-balance, off-stride, and he was changing speeds. He got the ball up on Moss, and he got behind a dangerous hitter like Doumit. He almost hit a grand slam. We played a good game, but that one inning cost us.’’

The four-run inning equaled the amount of runs the Pirates had scored in Maholm’s past three starts combined.

‘‘It was big,’’ he said. ‘‘They really picked me up. It was my job then to make sure the momentum stayed with us.’’

Fogg allowed four runs and six hits in four-plus innings. The right-hander, who played for the Pirates from 2002-05, dropped to 1-2 with a 10.42 ERA in four starts against his former team.

‘‘I didn’t make the pitches when I needed to,’’ Fogg said. ‘‘After Michaels hit the home run, the inning got away from me.’’

Moss hit a solo homer, his first at PNC Park, off reliever Mike Lincoln in the eighth. Nate McLouth hit his league-leading 38th double and had two hits for the Pirates. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez, bothered by a sore right shoulder, returned to the starting lineup after pinch-hitting the past two games. He went 0-for-4.

Jeff Keppinger broke out of a 4-for-37 slump with two singles for the Reds.

Notes: After the game, Pittsburgh activated 1B Adam LaRoche (strained rib cage) from the 15-day DL and sent 3B Jose Bautista to Triple-A Indianapolis. LaRoche went 6-for-10 in three games in a rehab assignment with Class A Hickory. … Fogg is the all-time leader in victories at PNC Park with 20. Maholm is tied for second with 18. … The Pirates announced the signing of LHP Justin Wilson, their fifth-round draft choice out of Fresno State. Wilson was the winning pitcher in the deciding game of this year’s College World Series. … Pirates SS Jack Wilson missed his sixth straight start with a sore right shoulder. … Cincinnati OF Chris Dickerson, who made his major-league debut Tuesday, was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Month for July. … Jolbert Cabrera made his first start of the season in left field for the Reds. … Patterson’s home run came on his 29th birthday, and Bruce’s shot snapped an 0-for-11 streak.