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Maholm blanks Astros in opener

Maholm blanks Astros in opener

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates got a shutout from lefty Paul Maholm as they defeated the Houston Astros, 3-0, in front of 13,062 fans on Tuesday night at PNC Park.

It was the Pirates first win at home after dropping the first four games at PNC Park. The victory was also the fourth straight over Houston this season -- the first time that has happened since the 2001 campaign.

Maholm, who struggled to an 0-2 record with a 6.19 ERA in his first three starts, had his best outing of the season as he gave up just three hits. The win was the first complete game and the first shutout of his career and upped his record to 1-2 on the season.

"That was a fantastic performance tonight," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "[Maholm] pitches a complete-game shutout with 99 pitches. He was terrific tonight. He was around the plate with everything he threw. He got early-count swings. He had a great sinker and his changeup was also very good. I've said this before -- when he throws strikes early in the count he can be very, very good."

Houston manager Phil Garner was disappointed in his team's effort against Maholm.

"I think it was more us. Obviously, he pitched well and don't take anything away from a complete-game shutout, but we didn't do a very good job tonight," opined Garner.

Maholm was pleased with his outing.

"It was a lot better than the first three starts," Maholm said. "Everything was working and I got early-count groundballs. That's the goal whenever I go out there. It worked out and the ninth inning was definitely different territory for me. For me it was pretty big to close it out. Tonight the mechanics stayed good the whole time, and I kept the ball down for the most part."

Houston starter Woody Williams was tagged with the loss, falling to 0-3 on the season. The right-hander surrendered three runs on nine hits in seven innings of work.

The Pirates jumped on Williams for a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Jack Wilson doubled and scored on Jason Bay's RBI double.

"It's no mystery that the middle of our lineup has been struggling," Bay explained. "Usually you've got one or two guys picking up the slack and we just all went into a funk at the same time. I kind of picked it up for us tonight and it was enough to win. It was nice to see it happen."

Pittsburgh upped its lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the second inning. Catcher Ronny Paulino, who has been struggling at the plate, blasted a home run to center field. It was home run No. 1 on the season for Paulino.

"You have to start some place," Tracy said of Paulino's home run. "In a lot of cases, more times than not, you see a guy get going on a ball that gets hit off the end of the bat and flares over an infielder's head or something, and they take off. He happened to hit one out of the ballpark to dead center field. His swings were better tonight and you need a starting point."

Following a Wilson leadoff double down the left-field line in the third inning, Bay stroked an RBI single to center field, giving Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead.

"Offensively once again we got just enough to win," Tracy explained. "We got a couple of doubles from Jack Wilson and we got a couple of big base hits after Wilson's doubles by Jason Bay and got [Maholm] the [runs] that he needed to get."

The win kicked off an important nine-game homestand for the Pirates, all against National League Central foes.

"Lets face it, our season thus far has been played on the road and the 13 road games we've played -- we're seven and six on the road versus 1-12 a year ago," said Tracy. "We were a pretty doggone good baseball team [at PNC Park] last year.

"We need to become a better team on the road. We realize that and we want to realize the fact that this is our home ballpark and people that come in here to play us, it's going to be very difficult in here for you to beat us. That's the mentality we want to create."

George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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