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ATL@WSH: Maholm holds Nats scoreless through 7 2/3

Maybe Paul Maholm's former team can figure out how to score against him.

The Braves left-hander, the lone Major League starter yet to be scored upon this season, takes his 20 1/3 scoreless-inning streak into Saturday's game against the Pirates at PNC Park.

Maholm spent his first seven years in Pittsburgh before departing as a free agent following the 2011 campaign. He signed with the Cubs, who flipped him to the Braves last July, but has faced his former club three times since his departure.

The lefty apparently knows his former teammates' weaknesses better than they know his repertoire, however, as Maholm has a 2.25 ERA in three starts against the Pirates.

Maholm will be pitching in a familiar setting -- Saturday marks his 100th career start at PNC Park -- but in somewhat unusual territory. The up-start Braves have dropped two of their last three since seeing their 10-game winning streak snapped.

The Pirates, meanwhile, have won five of seven, and on Saturday send right-hander James McDonald to the hill. McDonald took one of those losses, on Monday against the Cardinals when he allowed eight runs (three earned) in 1 2/3 innings.

McDonald's 2012 second-half struggles seem to have followed him into this season, though Saturday's matchup could help: he's 3-0 in his career against the Braves, including sporting a 1.73 ERA in four starts.

Braves: Freeman begins rehab
First baseman Freddie Freeman (strained right oblique) was 0-for-3 with a walk as the designated hitter on Friday in his first game of a rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett. He's expected to play first base Saturday and Sunday and, if all goes well, be activated for Monday's series opener against the Rockies at Coors Field.

• The Braves are 13-0 when homering.

Pirates: Keeping the lead
Pittsburgh improved to 7-0 when leading after seven innings on Friday, a record that has much to do with the back of the Pirates bullpen.

Set-up man Mark Melancon has made seven eighth-inning appearances, retiring all 21 batters he's faced, while closer Jason Grilli is unscored upon in his first seven games and is a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities.

• Neil Walker's next home run will be the 40th of his career as a Pirates second baseman, tying him with George Grantham for second on the franchise's all-time list. Bill Mazeroski's 137 homers lead the way.

• Garrett Jones' next homer at PNC Park would be his 46th at PNC Park, putting him alone in third place for the most home runs at the ballpark. He's currently tied with Brian Giles, while Jason Bay (61) and Craig Wilson (47) rank ahead of Jones and Giles.

Worth noting
• Like Maholm, Cardinals right-hander Jake Westbrook has a 0.00 ERA this season, but has allowed an unearned run.

• Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes is a .441 career hitter (15-for-34) against Maholm with two home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs.

• Pittsburgh's Travis Snider is hitting .400 during his seven-game hitting streak.

• Jones has hit safely in his last 11 starts, batting .395 in that stretch. Comments