Paul Maholm extends streak in Braves' win

ATLANTA 2, HOUSTON (SS) 0

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Atlanta's Paul Maholm allowed two hits in four scoreless innings and extended his streak of not allowing an earned run to 24 1/3 innings in a victory over the Astros.  EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Atlanta's Paul Maholm allowed two hits in four scoreless innings and extended his streak of not allowing an earned run to 24 1/3 innings in a victory over the Astros.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Paul Maholm extended his streak of not allowing an earned run to 24⅔ innings as the Atlanta Braves beat a split squad of Houston Astros 2-0 on Thursday in the final Grapefruit League game for both teams.

Both teams left Florida almost immediately following a game that lasted just 2 hours, 7 minutes.

Most starters were gone well before the end.

Maholm allowed only two hits with two strikeouts in four innings to end the spring with an ERA of 1.53.

“He’s a tough guy. He knows how to pitch,” catcher Gerald Laird said. “He has four pitches he can throw for strikes on both sides of the plate. He’s been around a long time. He knows what he wants to do. Today we were just trying to get on the same page, and he did exactly what I figured he would do: mix it up, keep guys off-balance and get ground-ball outs when he needed them.”

Relievers Jordan Walden, Craig Kimbrel, Mark Lamm, Anthony Varvaro and Andrew Russell all pitched scoreless innings.

Kimbrel, who had 42 saves last season but has struggled during camp, walked two in one inning. He had a 5.63 ERA.

“I think he just got the hamster back on the wheel,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Kimbrel. “He got out of his delivery a little bit.”

Houston’s Lucas Harrell pitched six innings and allowed one run – a homer to Andrelton Simmons in the first.

Harrell, the Astros No. 2 starter, will pitch on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers.

Gonzalez said the Braves were ready to head to Atlanta and prepare for Monday’s opener against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Before then, Atlanta has an exhibition game against some of their top prospects Saturday at Double-A Mississippi. Former Atlanta skipper Bobby Cox will manage the team of prospects. The Braves will then hold a workout Sunday at Turner Field.

“We still have some decisions to make, but we’re ready to go home,” Gonzalez said.

“Guys are champing on the bits to get it going. We got our work in, and we have a big game Saturday against the Skipper (Cox). Play over there, get a good crowd, then the season starts Monday.”

Left-hander Mike Minor will start the game at Missis­sippi.

Entering Thursday’s game, the Braves (20-15) led all National League teams in his (339) and home run (48).

The 20th win marked only the third time since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1966 that they have won 20 games in the Grapefruit League.

• Catcher Brian McCann, who will start the season on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury, played in a minor league game on Wednesday and went 2 for 3.


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