Paul Maholm pitches third career shutout to beat Cubs

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The big surprise here is that neither of his previous shutouts came against the Cubs.

Veteran left-hander Paul Maholm pitched a three-hitter Saturday as the Pirates won 10-0 at Wrigley Field.  He struck out four and walked none in the 91-pitch gem.

Ronny Cedeno, Lyle Overbay, Chris Snyder and Andrew McCutchen all went deep in the game.

It was just the second win of the year for Maholm.  He leads the NL with seven losses despite an ERA that dropped from 3.65 to 3.18 today.

The Pirates gave some thought to trading Maholm last year, but it would have been a case of selling low.  He had his worst year as a big leaguer in 2010, going 9-15 with a 5.10 ERA.

Now that he appears on his way to maybe his best or his second-best season (he had a 3.71 ERA and a nice 1.28 WHIP in 206 1/3 innings in 2008), he could bring a couple of quality prospects in return this summer.  The Pirates are also in better position to move him, considering that they’d still have three-fifths of a decent rotation in place with Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton and James McDonald.

But before giving away their players again, we might as well let the Pirates enjoy this one.  They’re back up to 24-26 on the season, and they’ll have a chance to go for a sweep in Chicago when Jeff Karstens faces Ryan Dempster on Sunday.

Kevin Kiermaier on Rays’ recent moves: “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset.”

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On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”

Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.

The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.

When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.