6/29 Confident Maholm gets “W”

Paul Maholm won for the first time in eight starts, and the secret may have been rookie catcher Steve Clevenger. The two meshed well on Friday in the 4-0 win. It also helped that Maholm got some offense as the Cubs hit three home runs.

“He was outstanding,” Dale Sveum said of Maholm. “All of his pitches — curveball, changeup — he kept them down. I think he had as good a sink as he’s had in a while. That was about as good as you could get. I wish he would’ve kept the ball down the last inning and finish it.”

Maholm held the Astros to two hits over eight innings, then gave up a single to Brian Bixler to start the ninth, and one out later, Carlos Lee doubled. That was enough, and Maholm was lifted for Carlos Marmol, who finished for his sixth save. Clevenger hit his first Major League home run, a two-run shot in the fourth, and Luis Valbuena hit an opposite-field home run in the second to back Maholm (4-7), who earned his first victory since May 9 in what was his 200th career start.

“I wanted it,” Maholm said of the chance for a complete game. “I understand the situation. I gave up two hits. After the last outing, I’ll take what I got.”

In his last outing, he gave up seven runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks.

“Confidence is a huge factor, whether you’re hitting or pitching,” Maholm said. “You have to go out there confident with your game plan and keep the ball down and be aggressive. If you’re doubting your pitches, you’re doubting whatever, they won’t be as crisp. … I’ve faced [the Astros] a decent amount so I kind of know their tendencies. I go in there knowing them and am able to be confident and aggressive and keep it down.”

What was the difference?

“The rain, the delay — who knows?” Sveum said. “Some guys, just the way they feel in the bullpen, their sides, you never know. [It would’ve been the] confidence level they feel with the ball coming out of their hand in the bullpen. He was really good today.”

— Carrie Muskat 

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