With the longest scoreless innings streak to begin a season since 1966 in the books, Atlanta Braves starter Paul Maholm aims to rebound on Friday night in the opener of a three-game set with the Detroit Tigers.
Maholm did not give up a run in winning each of his first three starts and stretched the streak to 25 2/3 frames on Saturday versus the Pittsburgh Pirates before allowing a one-out double to Andrew McCutchen that scored a run. The lefty then served up a two-run homer to Gaby Sanchez in the following at-bat and ended up suffering a 3-1 loss.
Maholm's season-opening shutout streak was the longest since Cleveland's Luis Tiant's 27-inning run in 1966.
"I'm not really worried about the streak, it was going to happen," said Maholm, whose earned run average rose to 1.03. "I wish it would have happened where we score five and I give up three and we win."
The 30-year-old is 0-1 with a 2.60 ERA in three career meetings with Detroit.
Anibal Sanchez draws the start for the Tigers and is also off to an impressive start in 2013. He gave up three runs and 10 hits over a 19-inning span in his first three starts before taking a loss versus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday.
The right-handed Sanchez was charged with three runs (2 earned) and 11 hits over 6 2/3 frames of an 8-1 defeat, falling to 2-1 on the season with a 1.75 ERA.
Sanchez, 29, has plenty of experience in his career versus the Braves after beginning his career with the Miami Marlins. It hasn't been good experience, though, as he is 4-11 with a 5.42 ERA in 17 meetings.
The Tigers will be looking to avoid a sixth loss in seven games after splitting a rain-shortened two-game series with the Kansas City Royals. Detroit dropped an 8-3 decision on Thursday, yielding five runs in the 10th inning.
Justin Verlander was in line to get the win, holding the Royals to a pair of runs -- one earned -- before he was forced out after the seventh inning because of a blister on his right thumb. Kansas City then tied the game in the eighth inning off of the hard-throwing 22-year-old Bruce Rondon in his major league debut before Phil Coke and Darin Downs combined to yield the five 10th- inning runs. Downs served up a grand slam to Kansas City's Alex Gordon.
Verlander, meanwhile, threw 96 pitches and struck out four and is expected to make his next scheduled start.
"I noticed (the blister) after my last start and it wasn't too bad," Verlander said. "It started getting a little bit worse after the fifth (inning). I started noticing it and after the seventh, I talked to our pitching coach, and we kind of came to a joint decision. At this point in the year, there's no point in creating something that possibly could become a nagging issue, so we just made the decision to call it a day."
Torii Hunter went 2-for-4 with an RBI single for the Tigers, who had just five hits. Miguel Cabrera had a run-scoring single in the first inning that extended his hitting streak to nine games and enabled he and Price Fielder (21) to become the first Tigers' duo to record 20 RBI in a season's first month since Tony Clark (27) and Travis Fryman (21) did so in 1997.
The Braves were out of action on Thursday, one day after they failed to record a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies by losing Wednesday's finale 6-5 in 12 innings.
Luis Ayala gave up the winning run, which came a few innings after Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning. He yielded a two-run double to Dexter Fowler, marking his first blown save and runs allowed since Aug. 31.
"The ball just kept carrying," said Kimbrel about Fowler's double. "He got enough of the ball that it carried all the way to the wall and scored two runs."
Justin Upton, Juan Francisco and Dan Uggla all had two-hit games and scored a run for the Braves, who have lost four of six and played the series without Jason Heyward. The outfielder was placed on the disabled list after having an emergency appendectomy on Monday in Denver.
The Braves are making their first trip to Detroit since 2004, when they lost two of three. The Tigers swept a three-game series in Atlanta during the 2007 campaign and the Braves took two of three at home in 2010.