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Maholm tosses three-hit shutout vs. Mets

NEW YORK -- Paul Maholm might not have been at the top of the Braves' wish list when they were searching for a starting pitcher before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. But if his performance against the Mets on Friday night was a sign of things to come, he will prove to be exactly what they were seeking.

Maholm was in total control as he tossed a three-hit shutout and led the Braves to a 4-0 win with help from the two-run home runs hit by Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla.

"It was a lot of fun to catch him," Braves catcher David Ross said. "I could have thrown a thumb down and he would have made a good pitch."

Heyward's two-run home run off Matt Harvey in the first inning proved to be enough for Maholm, who faced the minimum number of batters through the first five innings and needed just 95 pitches to notch his sixth complete-game victory.

Maholm has allowed exactly three hits in each of his four career shutouts. His most recent one had been a 91-pitch gem that he hurled for the Pirates while facing the Cubs on May 28, 2011.

The last Braves pitcher to throw fewer pitches in a shutout was Greg Maddux, who needed 89 pitches to beat the Marlins on Sept. 13, 2000.

"My goal is to keep [the pitch count] under 90, just to keep it under 10 pitches per inning just for a challenge," Maholm said. "The main thing is making pitches and getting outs. Every time they got somebody on base tonight, I executed the pitches and they made the plays."

After being acquired from the Cubs on July 30, Maholm revealed that he spent his childhood days in Mississippi dreaming of a chance to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Tom Glavine. Now the 30-year-old left-hander will always have the pleasure of knowing that his first win in a Braves uniform came courtesy of a memorable performance.

"It's pretty good to get off to a good start when you come over to a new team," Maholm said. "To get the first win out of the way, obviously with it being a complete game, it's fun."

Maholm has posted a 1.20 ERA and limited opponents to a .194 batting average in his past eight starts. He has allowed one or no runs in seven of those games.

While Maholm needed 48 pitches to get through the first five innings, Harvey needed 33 pitches to escape the first. Heyward victimized the highly regarded Mets prospect by drilling a first-pitch fastball over the right-center-field wall in the first inning. The evening's only other scoring came courtesy of the encouraging two-run homer Uggla hit off Josh Edgin in the eighth inning.

Uggla has shown some recent signs that he is breaking free of a horrific two-month slump. The veteran second baseman recorded multihit performances in the two games he played this week in Philadelphia. He opened this series by drawing two walks and hitting his 13th homer of the season.

"He's been swinging it, and we've seen him get hot," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team has won 13 of its past 16 games.

The Braves have seen Maholm show signs that he is capable of this kind of dominance. He posted a 1.36 ERA in eight career starts against Atlanta and limited Gonzalez's club to three hits over seven scoreless innings on May 9.

After the Braves sustained a 1-0 loss to the Cubs during that game three months ago, Ross was visibly frustrated by the fact that one of Tim Hudson's finest outings of the season had been squandered. Three months later, the veteran catcher felt fortunate to be on Maholm's side.

"That's kind of a catcher's dream right there," Ross said. "Whatever I threw down, he was making the pitch."

Maholm induced double-play groundouts in both of the first two innings and limited the Mets to one hit -- Daniel Murphy's second-inning single -- through the first five innings. He pitched around Rob Johnson's one-out double in the sixth inning and Scott Hairston's two-out double in the seventh.

In the process of inducing 14 ground-ball outs, Maholm benefited from some splendid defense. Juan Francisco made a few nifty plays at third base, and Michael Bourn raced to deep center field to run down Jason Bay's long drive to begin the bottom of the sixth.

But the game's most important defensive contribution came with two outs in the sixth inning and Johnson on third base. Instead of being distracted by the shattered bat that was nearing his feet, shortstop Paul Janish kept his concentration and turned Andres Torres' ground ball into an inning-ending play.

"I feel good," Maholm said. "Everything is working. I'm just trying to get ahead. Rossy called a great game. It seemed like every time they were looking away, we came in with the cutter and got some broken bats and easy outs."

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