After baffling opponents over the month-plus prior to being traded, Paul Maholm is hoping to see his success carry over with the Atlanta Braves.
If his numbers against the major league-worst Houston Astros are any indication, he could be in for a memorable Braves debut.Looking to continue his mastery of Houston, Maholm tries to help Atlanta to a 10th win in 11 games overall and a seventh consecutive home victory in this series Saturday night.Maholm went 9-6 with a 3.74 ERA over 21 appearances -- 20 starts -- with the Chicago Cubs before getting shipped along with Reed Johnson to Atlanta (61-45) in exchange for minor league pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman on Monday."We were looking for a starter, a quality starter that could give us the kind of production we needed up and down the rotation," general manager Frank Wren said. " ... It was a perfect fit for us."Maholm figures to give the Braves a big boost if he can build on his recent efforts. The veteran left-hander was 5-0 with a 1.02 ERA over his final six starts with Chicago.That success shouldn't come as much of a surprise to Houston (35-72). Maholm has compiled a 2.59 ERA over his last 18 starts against the Astros while posting a 12-4 record -- his most career wins against any club.Maholm has gone an even more impressive 8-1 with a 1.33 ERA in his last 10 outings versus the Astros outside of Houston. He scattered four hits over a season-high 8 1/3 innings June 29 during a 4-0 victory over Houston at Wrigley Field.He'll try to follow up an impressive showing from Tim Hudson, who earned his 100th victory in a Braves uniform during Friday's series-opening 4-1 victory.The Braves went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position but are still hitting .302 in such situations during their 9-1 stretch. Sitting in second place in the NL East, Atlanta moved within two games of division-leading Washington after the Nationals split a doubleheader Friday.The Astros, meanwhile, dropped to 3-29 since June 28 -- their worst 32-game stretch in franchise history."It's not a lot of fun, honestly," said outfielder Jordan Schafer, who went 1 for 4 in his first return to Atlanta since getting traded in last season's Michael Bourn deal."The reason you play the game is to win. When you just continue to lose and you lose in different ways, you lose by 10, you lose by four, you lose by 15, you lose by one, it's all the same. It gets tiring and annoying after a while. It's not a fun situation to be in."Houston has lost 16 of 17 thanks in large part to the staff's 7.17 ERA. Its only win over that stretch came with Lucas Harrell (8-7, 4.03) on the hill.He yielded two runs, five hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings Sunday in a 9-5 victory over Pittsburgh, improving to 1-1 with a 1.82 ERA over four starts since the All-Star break.Making his first appearance against the Braves, Harrell will do his best to slow down Chipper Jones, who's gone 15 for 36 with two homers and seven RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak in this series. He drove in a pair of runs Friday."I don't think he's human," Hudson said of the 40-year-old Jones. "He's a machine."The Astros have been outscored 31-8 during their six-game losing streak at Turner Field.