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Paul Maholm spot on for Dodgers in win over Padres

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- Paul Maholm made his 250th career start on Saturday night, but it was unlike any other in his 10-year career.

"I've never had two months off in between starts. I just went into it, trying to be as aggressive as I was in the bullpen, just trying to make pitches and go hitter to hitter," Maholm said. "I didn't really have any expectations going into the game."

It was Maholm's first start since May 14, having spent the last two months on bullpen duty, mostly mop-up work. But in those shorter stints, Maholm changed his approach, which served him well in Saturday's spot start.

"The more aggressive approach, you're just trying to go after guys. The biggest thing tonight was getting ahead, mixing speeds, getting some quick outs. That helped me the most, going after guys, not trying nibble," Maholm said. "If you get ahead and you're able to keep your pitches down, you're able to go deeper in the game."

Maholm didn't walk a single batter on Saturday against the Padres. He only went to three balls on two batters - Rene Rivera in the fifth and Chris Denorfia in the sixth - and both were retired.

Maholm threw a first-pitch strike to 16 of his 20 batters faced (80 percent) on Saturday, after doing so to 52.7 percent of his betters faced the rest of the season.

The result was six scoreless innings, with the only blemishes a pair of singles to left field by Chase Headley. The second hit, to leadoff the seventh ended Maholm's night after just 65 pitches. Manager Don Mattingly said the plan was for Maholm to only face one batter, Headley, in the seventh inning no matter what.

Maholm, who was pitching technically on three days rest after throwing 32 pitches in 2⅓ innings of relief in Tuesday's debacle in Detroit. He said he understood the decision.

"I told Donnie I really didn't want to be on a pitch count, that the hitters would let me know whether it was after 30 pitches or 80-90 pitches," Maholm said. "This is the best I have felt all year."

After allowing 10 runs to the Marlins on May 14, Maholm had a 5.40 ERA with 18 walks and 14 strikeouts with eight home runs allowed in 40 innings. Since then in 15 games, including 14 relief appearances, the left-hander has a 3.47 ERA with six walks and 18 strikeouts in 23⅓ innings, and no home runs allowed.

"I've tried to just deal with the situation of going to the bullpen and doing whatever I can, pitching when they ask me to. Obviously in the back of my head, I still want to start, still be on the mound every fifth day," Maholm said. "Tonight I got an opportunity and I wanted to prove to myself — I felt as though when I was making spot starts earlier in the season I wasn't pitching like I normally do — that I could still do it, and that's what I want to do."