Paul Maholm tries to push the Atlanta Braves closer to homefield advantage throughout the National League playoffs when he takes the mound Wednesday in the finale of a three-game series versus the Milwaukee Brewers at Turner Field.
Maholm gets the nod for a Braves club that is a half-game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the NL's best record and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Braves' magic number to make sure Turner Field will be a house of horrors for opponents is four.
Maholm is unbeaten (1-0) in his last four starts following a personal four- game losing streak and did not factor in the outcome of Friday's 9-5 road win against the Chicago Cubs. Maholm gave up four runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings and is 10-10 in 25 starts with a 4.44 earned run average.
The left-hander, who is 6-2 in nine home starts, has a lifetime mark of 4-11 to go along with a 5.19 ERA in 23 starts against the Brewers. Maholm spent many years in the NL Central with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Braves are hoping his experience in this series pays off despite the losing record.
Atlanta had lost two of three games before pulling out a 3-2 win over Milwaukee on Tuesday and Andrelton Simmons delivered the game-winning RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Justin Upton singled leading off the inning, went to second on an Evan Gattis base hit and hustled home when Simmons deposited a Donovan Hand pitch to right-center field.
"I struggled a little bit with runners in scoring position earlier this year," Simmons said. "I've been learning, took me a while, but I have a better idea on what I need to do in those situations."
Gattis finished with three hits, while Freddie Freeman and Upton had two apiece. Braves closer Craig Kimbrel got the win by striking out the side in the top of the ninth and starter Freddy Garcia fanned seven batters over 6 2/3 solid innings, allowing two runs and six hits for the no-decision.
Hand was dealt the loss for giving up Simmons' clutch hit and Tyler Thornburg tossed the first seven innings for the Brewers and allowed just two runs with eight K's and one walk.
"We played a good game. We didn't do much damage offensively, and that sometimes has to do with the pitcher," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "When Freddy (Garcia) is out there pitching, you really have to have a veteran team that understands how to sit offspeed, and it's pretty tough for young guys to figure him out. So I didn't have a good feeling that we were going to score a lot of runs off him, but the way Thornburg has been pitching, I thought, 'Well, we're going to stay in the game.' And we did."
Jeff Bianchi homered and Scooter Gennett compiled two hits in defeat, Milwaukee's fourth in the past six tries.
The Brewers will miss the playoffs for a fourth time in five seasons and hope Kyle Lohse can deliver a series win in his final start of the season Wednesday. Lohse dropped his last start, a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Cubs on Thursday. He was touched for three runs in five innings to fall to 10-10 in 31 starts with a 3.51 ERA.
Lohse, a right-hander, owns a 3-6 mark in 15 road starts and has faced Atlanta 10 times in his career, going 3-1 with a 4.97 ERA.
The Brewers have won six of their last eight versus the Braves, taking two of three in Milwaukee from June 21-23. They were swept in three games in Atlanta a season ago.