• Summary: Paul Maholm surrendered just three singles in his first career complete game to lead the Pirates past the Astros 3-0.
• Figure this: Only one Pittsburgh starter threw a shutout last season. Zach Duke blanked the Cubs on May 2.
• $12M man?: Astros starter Woody Williams is now winless in five starts this season.
• Fantasy stat: Pirates third baseman Jose Bautista extended his hit streak to 11 games with a single in the sixth.
-- ESPN.com news services
Pirates 3, Astros 0
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Paul Maholm wasn't perfect, and he didn't flirt with a no-hitter. To pitch much better than this, though, the Pittsburgh Pirates' left-hander might have to do exactly that.Maholm allowed only three singles in his first career complete game and the Pirates avoided their longest home losing streak to start a season in 109 years, beating the Houston Astros 3-0 on Tuesday night.Playing only their fifth home game -- they lost their first four -- the Pirates got their best-pitched game so far this season from Maholm (1-2), who hadn't won since Sept. 15, and a pair of run-scoring hits from Jason Bay."If I throw out the one walk, everything was pretty perfect," Maholm said. "I threw hardly any balls that were hit in the air, and for a sinkerball pitcher that's got to be the thing to do."The left-handed Maholm faced only 29 batters, two over the minimum, while giving up three hits and walking one. Craig Biggio, who had two of Houston's three hits, was thrown out trying to steal second in the fourth. He also was retired on a double-play grounder following a sharply hit single to left field on Maholm's first and probably worst pitch of the game."He swings at the first pitch a lot, but for some reason he's been taking and I just laid one in there and he hit a ball through the 6-hole [at shortstop]," Maholm said.Maholm, who took a 6.19 ERA and an 11-13 career record into his fourth start of the season, didn't throw many bad pitches after that one as the Astros never came close to getting anything going offensively in their fourth consecutive loss.Houston never advanced a runner past first base against Maholm, who got 15 outs by groundball or easy popups and struck out four. Maholm was so successful in keeping the ball down, Houston didn't hit a fly ball until the fourth and had only six flyouts overall.Good pitching or bad hitting? The two managers disagreed."You can count the number of bad pitches he threw on one hand," the Pirates' Jim Tracy said. "He was exceptional.""It was a very bad game, we looked like we had no clue what we were doing," the Astros' Phil Garner said. "We hit one ball good. We didn't square the ball up and swung at a lot of bad pitches and, unfortunately, we put them in play. I think it was more us than him, though obviously he pitched well."The Pirates haven't lost their first five home games since 1898, the 12th season of their existence and one in which the entire club hit only 14 homers all season.These Pirates did homer -- Ronny Paulino's solo shot in the second, his first of the season and one of their four extra-base hits while taking a 3-0 lead by the fourth against Woody Williams (0-3). The right-handed Williams remained winless with his hometown Astros since signing a two-year contract worth about $12 million."It was good to get things going here," Maholm said.Jack Wilson doubled and scored on Bay's double in the first, and Paulino's homer made it 2-0 in the second. Wilson doubled for the second time in as many at-bats in the third and scored on Bay's one-out single."The middle of the lineup has been struggling, but we picked up the offense and it was enough to get the win," Bay said.Previously, Maholm's longest starts of his 40 in the majors were eight-inning outings against the Reds and the Brewers during his rookie season in 2005. He was the first Pittsburgh pitcher to throw a shutout since Zach Duke's five-hitter against the Chicago Cubs on May 2 last year."Being out there in the ninth was different territory for me," said Maholm, who didn't last longer than six innings in his first three starts. "I threw as many pitches as I've been throwing in five innings. Tonight, I threw strikes and let them beat the ball into the ground."Williams gave up nine hits over seven innings, one start after severely bruising his right shin while being struck by a ball hit by the Reds' Brandon Phillips.
The Pirates have scored only 12 runs in their five home games. ... Houston is 3-4 during a nine-game, four-city road trip that was expanded to include a Monday night makeup game in Philadelphia, which the Astros lost 11-4. ... The Astros are 0-4 against the Pirates, losing their first three games of the season April 2-4 in Houston. ... The Pirates had nine hits a night after the Phillies had 20 against Houston. ... The time of game, thanks to Maholm's effective pitching, was 1 hour, 57 minutes.