Paul Maholm fell back down to Earth after a rocky start against the Detroit Tigers over the weekend, following his 25.2 scoreless inning streak to start the 2013 season. The left-hander will get the ball in game three between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves on Wednesday with hopes of repeating his first start against the team in April.
Maholm (3-2, 3.30) shut down the Nationals in the first meeting, throwing 7.2 innings of scoreless baseball and striking out seven hitters while allowing just four hits and one walk.
Part of the reason he found success the first go around was shutting down Bryce Harper.
The 20-year-old phenom is hitting .344 with nine home runs and 18 RBIs, and seemingly gives his team a jolt with his big hits. However, Harper managed just a walk against Maholm in the first matchup and is 0-for-6 off the left-hander in his career.
Despite getting off to a great start in 2013, he is hitting just .167 off left-handed pitchers and .118 against left-handed starters. Combine that with Maholm holding left-handed hitters to just a .091 average in 2013, and the Braves have a decisive advantage.
To make things worse for the Nationals, they could be without both Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, which would leave the Nationals with a less formidable middle of the order. Maholm should be able to take advantage of a weaker bottom of the order while focusing on the left-handed hitters at the top of the order in Harper, Adam LaRoche and Denard Span.
The Braves will likely need a quality start from Maholm as the Nationals are sending Jordan Zimmermann (4-1, 2.00) to the mound. Maholm does have some factors working in his favor, which could set up for a nice rebound start from his last outing.