Pirates' Maholm tosses 3-hit CG in blowout of Astros

PITTSBURGH -- Everything was working for Paul Maholm on Sunday, including getting support from a suddenly potent offense.

Maholm pitched a three-hitter for his second career shutout and the Pittsburgh Pirates established a season high for hits for the second consecutive game, beating the Houston Astros 9-0 on Sunday.

Maholm (6-7) faced only two batters above the minimum in needing 103 pitches to throw his first complete game since April 27, 2008. His only previous shutout was against Houston April 24, 2007.

"Everything was good," Maholm said. "I mixed speeds with my curveballs, mixed speeds with my sinker... They were aggressive, so you keep the ball down and let them beat it into the ground and hit easy pop-ups. The defense picked me up a few times, and the offense, when you put up runs like that, it makes it a lot easier and a lot more relaxing on the mound."

Garrett Jones hit a two-run shot, the Pirates' first multiple-run homer in five weeks, and Ronny Cedeno went 4 for 4 with three doubles for Pittsburgh, which had 19 hits a day after getting 17 in winning two straight following a seven-game losing streak.

Every Pittsburgh position player had at least a hit and seven different players had at least an RBI.

The top five in the batting order are all in their first or second major-league seasons. The Pirates entered the series last in the National League in runs and batting average, but had 17 or more hits in consecutive games for the first time since May 29-30, 2006.

"Two days in a row lets the guys know what they're capable of doing," Pirates manager John Russell said. "It's a good building block for these young guys. They're starting to get the feeling they can score runs."

Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen left the game with a neck injury after making a diving catch on Pedro Feliz's sinking liner to right-center in the eighth. Russell called the injury a mild sprain of the AC joint and said McCutchen would be evaluated Monday.

"After it first happened, I didn't really know what to expect, but the X-rays were negative so we will see how it goes tomorrow and go from there," said McCutchen, the team leader in average, runs and steals.

Astros ace Roy Oswalt missed out on an opportunity to tie Joe Niekro for the club's career victories record when he was removed from the game after four innings because of a bruised left ankle sustained when Pedro Alvarez's sharply hit grounder struck him in the second.

Houston manager Brad Mills said he expects Oswalt (6-11) to make his next start.

"He was really having some uncomfort in landing, and any time you have a situation like that with your pitcher the main concern is you don't want him to change something and put a stress on something else and start hurting something else," Mills said.

Oswalt, 143-80 in his career, pitched a one-hitter against Pittsburgh in his previous outing July 8. He earlier in the season requested a trade from the only team he has played for and has only two scheduled starts remaining before the non-waiver trade deadline July 31.

Oswalt retired the first four batters he faced to extend his scoreless streak to 17 1/3 innings, but Alvarez's hit was the first of four consecutive. Oswalt retired only seven of his final 14 batters, allowing two runs and seven hits with five strikeouts.

"I was able to get through a couple more innings and I was hoping that I could get to the sixth, but it got to the point I started cutting my mechanics off and I didn't want to hurt myself trying to throw a different way," Oswalt said.

Maholm allowed three singles -- two by Angel Sanchez, who was erased by a double play each time -- in throwing the first complete game by a Pirate this season.

"He was great," Russell said. "He kept the ball down, he located, his offspeed was working."

Jones' team-leading 12th home run of the season -- only his second since June 13 -- was the Pirates' first with a man on base since June 8.

Game notes
The Astros designated RHP Casey Daigle for assignment after the game after he allowed three runs in one-third of an inning to raise his season ERA to 11.32. The club purchased the contract of RHP Gary Majewski from Triple-A Round Rock. ... Pirates GM Neal Huntington confirmed that the team has deals in the works to send Triple-A RHPs Hayden Penn and Vinnie Chulk to Japanese clubs. ... Jones' homer accounted for the first earned runs veteran reliever Sampson had been charged for against Pittsburgh in 20 career appearances.