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MLB Atlanta Braves

Paul Maholm Dazzles as Atlanta Braves Stay Hot

Paul Maholm Atlanta Braves

Steve Mitchell-USA Today Sports

Paul Maholm made sure not to overlook the Miami Marlins on Monday night. Maholm threw seven innings of one-hit scoreless baseball in the Atlanta Braves‘ 2-0 win. Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel worked scoreless eighth and ninth innings to finish off the shutout, but the night was about Maholm as he built on his first start of the year to pick up his second win on the young 2013 MLB season. Through 12 2/3 innings, he is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 0.87 WHIP.

Maholm took advantage of a Marlins’ lineup that lacks pop around young slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Two of the three walks issued by Maholm were to Stanton. The first came in the first inning with two outs, and Greg Dobbs followed with a walk of his own to set up runners on first and second. The second came in the third inning with two outs after the Marlins’ lone hit–a Placido Polanco single. Maholm was able to work out of the jams both times, and those proved to be the only trouble spots for him all night.

The key for the Braves in this series will be limiting the opportunities for Stanton to do major damage. Maholm mastered that on Monday by not allowing Stanton to come up with a runner in scoring position all night. Leadoff man Juan Pierre and Polanco finished a combined 1-for-7 on the night, which allowed the Braves to pitch around Stanton (0-for-1, three walks).

Can Maholm be in for a career year in 2013? His April splits throughout his career do not suggest he finds success early and then tails off. In fact, each month his ERA hovers around 4.00 while in 2012 he struggled in March and April with a 6.20 ERA. His best season in terms of ERA came in 2011 with the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he posted a 3.66 ERA. Maholm is off to a fantastic start to beat that in 2013. Another factor that could come into play is his contract. Maholm is signed through 2013, and we’ve seen instances of players performing well during a contract year.

Maholm looks to be in line to post some quality numbers in 2013. The Braves need him and veteran Tim Hudson to be consistently good with a talented but unproven rotation. Much of the attention has gone to the offense in the Braves’ 6-1 start. However, the success of Maholm in the early going should not be ignored. His success with the rest of the rotation will be the deciding factor in winning the division or contending for a Wild Card spot.