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PIT@CHC: Maholm hurls 6 2/3 scoreless frames

As their rain-abbreviated series with the Brewers concludes Thursday night at PNC Park, the Pirates can once again try to offer a compelling testimony of their improvement.

To dramatize that this is a new season, a different team, the Bucs couldn't ask for a better forum than the Brewers, or left-hander Randy Wolf, their starting pitcher.

The last time Wolf faced the Pirates in an April game in PNC Park, he was on the winning end of a 20-0 rout to wrap up a three-game sweep by a cumulative 36-1 score.

Though the Bucs didn't exactly vanquish the memory of that franchise low by dropping Wednesday's game, 6-0, left-hander Paul Maholm can pitch them back to the .500 level in his third start of the season.

With two solid, if unrewarded, appearances (an 0-1 record, despite allowing only three earned runs in 12 1/3 innings), Maholm has been a big contributor to the fine rotation work that continued with Kevin Correia on Wednesday night.

Well, for five innings anyway.

Correia held the Brewers hitless through five before he was jumped for four runs in the sixth.

"We're happy with what we've seen so far, but it's a long season," Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage said of the starters' overall performance. "We want our guys to keep throwing strikes, keep using the fielders behind them."

Searage's guys certainly haven't been able to afford many mistakes, with the Pirates' halting offense squeezing their margin of error. Through 11 games, the Bucs are averaging 3.4 runs, and the veteran Wolf does not come across as a cure, his early woes (0-2 with a 7.20 ERA) notwithstanding. He's 8-3 lifetime versus the Bucs.

Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke was excited by Wolf's last outing, if not by the results -- a 7-4 loss on Friday to the Cubs in a six-inning turn in which he allowed nine hits and six runs, only two of them earned.

"I know the outcome didn't look good, but I really like the way he threw the ball," Roenicke said. "His fastball, I thought, was outstanding. He spun the ball good on his breaking balls, threw some nice changeups. A couple of them cut a little bit. You watch the way he throws, and you look up at the scoreboard, and it just doesn't seem like he should have given up so many runs."

Brewers: Lucroy back behind the plate
• Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who suffered a fractured right little finger early in Spring Training, made his season debut Wednesday and went 1-for-4 with a run scored.

Pirates: Tabata's streak halted at 10
• Jose Tabata's season-long hitting streak ended at 10 games, as he went 0-for-2 while drawing two walks.

• Right-hander Evan Meek went three-up, three-down in a ninth-inning appearance that signaled his return from a week off with shoulder tightness.

Worth noting
With his next home run, Ryan Doumit will break a tie with Smoky Burgess and Manny Sanguillen for fourth-most by a catcher in Pittsburgh history, at 48. The Pirates have been playing ball for 130 years, so which is more remarkable -- that the franchise record for catchers' homers is only 66, or that it is held by Jason Kendall, who has hit a total of eight homers in 3,021 at-bats since leaving the Bucs after the 2004 season? Comments