Another stellar outing today from Paul Maholm as he earned his sixth win of the season to give the Pirates a win in their final game of the first half of the season, 9-1 over the Cubs. For his entire career Maholm has just been so-so. He comes in and might have a good game every now and then but there were plenty of games that he would get smacked around. Coming into the season everyone figured that this would be the kind of the same year. If you thought that then you couldn’t be more wrong.
Maholm threw 7.2 innings of spectacular baseball today and lowered his ERA under 3.00 at 2.96. Typically he likes to get the ground ball outs, and while he did he also struck out eight batters and didn’t walk a single one. He scattered four hits and gave up a lone run in the fourth inning, well after the Pirates had already put up five runs on Cubs starter Ramon Ortiz. Paul did get the ground balls as evidence by the four double plays that were turned while he was on the bump.
It was announced that Kevin Correia was named to the National League All-Star team to replace Cole Hamels but saying that he is the best starter on the team is a grave injustice to not only Maholm, but also to Jeff Karstens. Correia was voted in by the players and mostly due to the 11 win first half he put up even though his ERA is north of four. While 11 wins is a great accomplishment for any pitcher for half of the season he might only be the third best starter on the staff and the only one going to Arizona next week. The run support isn’t always there for Maholm and he has been kind of lucky (as evident by his .253 BABIP against) but his 1.22 WHIP and .226 opposing batting average are just remarkable. Correia should get congratulated for his spot on the team, but Maholm should too.
The Pirates continued their hot play and did exactly what I wanted them to do in their final three series heading into the break. If you remember me talking before the Nationals series I said that if they could go 6-4 heading into the break against the Nationals, Astros and Cubs then they would be in good shape. They are in good shape at four games over .500 and only one game back of first place in the NL Central. Unbelievable.
Andrew McCutchen ended the first half of the season on a torrid pace and drove in five of the nine Pirates runs today and included an enormous three run blast. The kid only went 1-for-2 but had two sacrifice flies and the home run to go into the break with a triple slash line of .291/.390/.505. You can’t really tell them there are that many players in baseball that are better than McCutchen.
If McCutchen had a great day then so did Neil Walker. The Pittsburgh kid drove in a run and collected three hits, all of the extra base variety, and scored two runs. I have been pretty down on Walker all year as the regression is starting to show that we thought we would see last season. Granted this is his first full year of major league ball so there will be some give and take, but it doesn’t seem like that. It feels like guys like Walker and McCutchen have been on the team for year when in reality they are still new to the game and trying to make adjustments. Hopefully Neil will continue to hit like he did today although I think average (.264) is about what you can expect from Walker over a full season. The power has subsided, which is a bummer, but if he can be a .270 hitter I would be happy with that.
Overall it was a great first half. The Pirates come back on Friday when they travel to Houston but as always check back this week as I should have a podcast up with midseason thoughts and some All-Star game stuff.