Maholm continues streak as Braves blank Yankees

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. Paul Maholm looks like he's ready to start the season. So does Juan Francisco.

Maholm allowed two hits over six innings Saturday night as the Braves defeated a New York Yankees split-squad 4-0, running his scoreless streak to 14 innings in his past three starts.

"Something clicked," Maholm said. "I found my rhythm and now I need to carry it over."

The left-hander got all the offensive support he needed from Francisco, who hit a two-run homer and also had a single. It was his fourth homer of the spring for the third baseman and he is batting .311 with eight RBIs.

Maholm struck out four and walked one, throwing 49 of his 66 pitches for strikes. The Yankees never got a runner to second base off him as he induced a pair of double play grounders.

"He commanded his fastball on both sides of the plate and also the curveball," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He was really good again. He did a nice job."

Maholm, acquired by the Braves from the Chicago Cubs before the trade deadline last July, had a rough outing against the Phillies on Feb. 28, but allowed three hits over 3 innings against the Yankees on March 5 and only two hits over five innings against the Nationals on Monday. In that game, he struck out five and walked one.

"The main thing is getting ahead, throwing strikes, mixing speeds and getting the ball on the ground," Maholm said. "When April gets here, I want to feel comfortable."

It was a long and fruitless day at the plate for the Yankees, who lost 7-0 to Philadelphia in the afternoon at Tampa. They had seven hits in that game.

"The runs weren't in Florida for us today," manager Joe Girardi said.

Meanwhile, the Braves scored three runs off Yankees starter David Phelps in the fifth inning, the big blow a two-run homer by Francisco.

Phelps, who is competing for a spot in the Yankees rotation, had a 0.64 ERA in his previous four starts, but allowed seven hits and four runs in five innings. He struck out six and walked one.

"It's frustrating," Phelps said. "All my pitches felt good. It was probably the best command-wise and stuff-wise I've felt all spring. But I've got to bear down with two outs. Everything snowballed after that walk."

Phelps struck out six, but it was that lone walk that led to the Braves breaking the game open in the fifth. Jason Heyward stole second and scored on a single by Justin Upton before Francisco went deep to right-center field on a 2-and-2 offering.

"He's swinging it," Gonzalez said. "Really the whole spring he's been swinging it. And he made a couple of nice plays."

The Braves' other run came in the third inning on a single by Heyward after a double by Reed Johnson.

Justin Upton, who had been 0 for 9, had two hits.

Notes: J.R. Graham, who allowed one hit in the last two innings, was sent down to minor league camp by the Braves after the game. The Braves' 2012 minor league pitcher of the year didn't allow a run over nine innings in five spring appearances. ... Braves closer Craig Kimbrel returned to the team Saturday after the United States was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic on Friday night. Kimbrel took the loss against the Dominican Republic on Thursday, but came back to pitch a scoreless inning against Puerto Rico. ... Braves reliever Jordan Walden, who had an epidermal last week to relieve the pain of a bulging disk, was able to throw BP on Saturday. His only Grapefruit League outing was Feb. 23 against the Yankees and he is in danger of not being ready to start the season.