Paul Maholm made a triumphant return to the mound at Dodger Stadium on Saturday evening to help pitch the Dodgers into first place. Maholm threw six scoreless frames which helped lead to the Dodger’s 1-0 win over San Diego in the third game of the four game series against the division rivals.
Maholm has been the forgotten man until Saturday night. He’s been the spot starter/long man in the bullpen, and with nobody hurt or injured, we hadn’t seen him pitch in a long time. Maholm hadn’t started since May 14th, when he was filling in for the injured Hyun-jin Ryu. This time he was filling in for the injured Josh Beckett, who is out with a hip flexor injury.
But Maholm had been awful before last night. He came in with a 1-4 record, 5.18 ERA, and opposing hitters were batting .304 against him. Nobody wanted him to make this spot start. Everyone moaned and groaned, (including myself), and expected the worst. Maholm proved everybody wrong with a fantastic outing.
Just a night after another lousy Dan Haren performance, and a 6-3 loss, the Dodgers needed Maholm to give them some innings. Haren had only lasted four innings plus, and the bullpen had to be emptied out before that game was finished. Maholm gave the Dodgers just that and more. I guess we all have to stop making fun of Maholm, (for now at least).
Maholm stepped up and threw six plus innings of scoreless ball. He allowed just two hits, whiffed four, and did not walk a single batter. Maholm was lifted after he allowed a single to the lead-off batter Chase Headley in the top of the seventh. He made 65 pitches, and unfortunately was not involved in the decision. He came out of the game with the game in a scoreless tie.
I don’t think the Padres got one man to third during his outing. He only gave up two base runners, and one was in the seventh inning. The 32-year old veteran was locked in.
Maholm mixed in effective cutters, with a great curve, and a few 89 MPH heaters. He was able to get eleven ground ball outs. Only two balls were hit in the air during his six plus innings of work. He was fantastic. So what was the change? Obviously Maholm prepared for this start. Maholm said he just went back to his normal routines.
Maholm said he just went hitter to hitter during the game. Don Mattingly felt like he was on a mission to prove he could still pitch.
“I had no expectations coming into the game,” Maholm said. “I just went hitter to hitter. I wanted to go deep and didn’t want to hang the guys out in the bullpen.”
The only guys left hanging were the San Diego hitters. Maholm had to outduel opposing starter and head thrower Ian Kennedy, who was making his first start at Dodger Stadium since the brawl game from last June. Kennedy allowed just three hits in his eight shutout innings.
Maholm was a guy we wanted gone because he had been so bad all season long, but on Saturday night he proved he still had worth. He gave the Dodgers what they so desperately needed. Innings. And he gave us six plus superb innings at that. The Dodger’s mighty starting rotation is beginning to show some leaks. Josh Beckett’s hip injury is going to keep him out for an unspecified amount of time. And Dan Haren has been in a horrendous slump for weeks now. The Dodgers might need to call on Maholm again. His incredible performance pitched the Dodgers back into first place in the NL West.
All I ask from players is to show the ability to improve. Before Saturday night’s game, Maholm had yet to show this. On Saturday he proved he can still pitch. He showed the ability to improve. That’s all we can ask for from him, or anybody else.
A confident and well prepared Paul Maholm could be a useful guy to have around in the future. Of course this now means that I have to stop making fun of him. Well, until he starts to suck again. We’re all high on you right now Paul, so don’t screw it up.