PITTSBURGH -- Things looked bad for Paul Maholm in the seventh inning on Thursday night. The young lefty had just given up two runs after a quick two outs, and there, in the on-deck circle, was Alex Rodriguez.
Most 25-year-old pitchers would have wilted under the pressure, but not Maholm. He induced Rodriguez into a forceout and the Pirates escaped the inning.
"It would have been easy to fold," manager John Russell said, "but he made the pitches. It was kind of a tribute to what he did all night."
What Maholm accomplished before the seventh was sensational. He held the potent Yankees lineup, which came into the game on a four-game winning streak, to four hits in six innings with a devastating curveball and sinker.
That reason, coupled with an overworked bullpen, is why Russell allowed Maholm to take the mound for the eighth.
The Pirates' first-year skipper also liked the matchups, with Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera all having minimal success against lefties in 2008. Maholm got all three hitters out on only six pitches.
"It was his game," said Russell, whose decision was made easier when Nate McLouth hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the seventh.
"Not only did I want him out there because of the job he did, the crowd was behind him," Russell added. "[That] gave him the opportunity to come off the field with the crowd. It's a nice moment and he should get that."
Russell said on Friday that Maholm is one of, if not the hardest working pitcher on the Pirates' staff. Maholm's preparation for every fifth day is unmatched, and the lefty always asks questions to pitching coach Jeff Andrews in between innings.
"[He's become] a student of the game," Russell said. "He has taught himself a lot about pitching. He's a guy that you feel real comfortable with in those situations. To do what he did just goes to show what he's been doing all year and what he's doing between starts."
Todd Krise is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.