Maholm bitten once more by home run bug

Maholm bitten once more by home run bug

Maholm bitten once more by home run bug
SAN DIEGO -- So much for carrying momentum out this past weekend's series in San Francisco.  After breaking out of their offensive funk with impressive production in the final two games of a four-game series against the Giants, the Braves were subdued by a highly regarded prospect who was making his Major League debut. 

While the Braves were unfamiliar with Padres starting pitcher Casey Kelly, Paul Maholm was all too familiar with the frustration he felt while surrendering another costly home run in Monday night's 3-0 loss at PETCO Park.

"We actually hit a lot of balls hard, but they made the plays and made the pitches when they needed to," Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said. "Sometimes you just need to tip your cap. Sometimes, it's just not in the cards."

Yasmani Grandal's two-run home run in the second inning proved to be enough to allow Kelly to celebrate his debut with a victory and extend the Padres' season-best winning streak to eight games. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed just three hits over six innings against an offense that had tallied seven runs in both of its two previous games.

"Casey was good," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He kept his composure for a young kid. He did a nice job. He did a lot of good things for them."

Kelly, who is regarded as the Padres' top prospect, missed most of the season's first four months with a right elbow injury. This was a special debut for the young pitcher, who spent some time around the Braves when his dad, Pat Kelly, served as Atlanta's Triple-A manager from 2003-05.

"It's like a blur," Kelly said. "They're a great team and to keep the streak alive -- I didn't want to break up the streak. I might get sent down -- it was good. I'm just happy to be here."

Grandal's line-drive home run over the left-field wall proved to be the only damage incurred by Maholm, who surrendered eight hits and issued just one walk in his 6 2/3 innings.  That lone walk came just before the veteran left-hander allowed his sixth home run since being acquired by the Braves courtesy of a July 31 trade with the Cubs.

After issuing a six-pitch walk to Carlos Quentin to open the second inning, Maholm got ahead of Grandal with an 0-2 count.  But the rookie catcher then looked at pair of pitches outside of the strike zone sandwiched around a foul ball before drilling a 2-2 slider. 

"I was trying to bounce it," Maholm said. "I had thrown a 0-2 [slider] that he took. I was trying to go to the same spot. It was in, but it was just up and he was able to get the barrel on it.

"That was pretty much the only pitch that stayed up all night. I'll take the 6 2/3 and two runs pretty much every time out. I have confidence in the guys to go out and score. But obviously, they pitched a great game."

Each of the 10 runs Maholm has surrendered through his first five starts with the Braves has come courtesy of home runs.  He surrendered a total of three home runs in the final 12 starts that he made for the Cubs.

Maholm has lost three of his first five starts for the Braves, including his past two. But the composed left-hander has lasted at least seven innings in each of these outings and compiled a 2.45 ERA in the process. 

"You try to be aggressive," Maholm said. "Sometimes it hurts you and sometimes it's good."

When the Braves won the final two games of this past weekend's four-game series in San Francisco, they were able to temporarily forget about their recent woes.  But with seven losses in their past 10 games, they have certainly created some reason for concern as the regular season's final month nears.

The Braves hit .197 while losing six of the seven games they played before scoring seven runs in both of the final two games of this past weekend's series. The offensive woes experienced last week were different than those produced by the Padres in this series opener.

Uggla's second-inning single put runners at first and second base with just one out.  But Kelly escaped that jam by retiring Paul Janish and Maholm without any problem.  Atlanta's misfortunes were extended into the third inning when Martin Prado lined into a double play.

"This team has won eight in a row and they're pitching well and hitting well," Gonzalez said. "We just came out of a great series against the Giants and had some momentum. They just pitched a little better and we hit the ball right at them."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.