Pirates notebook: Playoffs will be new to Maholm

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For the first time in his eight-year major league career, Paul Maholm's team will play a postseason baseball game.

The playoff appearance Friday comes two teams removed from the Pirates, the team that drafted him and the franchise he pitched for in the first seven years of his career.

"It's something I've never obviously experienced," Maholm said. "I'm just trying to make sure I'm ready to go."

Maholm made his final regular-season start Monday for the Atlanta Braves against the Pirates at PNC Park. He took the loss, allowing two runs on seven hits. Maholm has a 3.54 ERA through 11 starts with the Braves, who acquired him from the Chicago Cubs after Maholm signed with the Cubs in the offseason.

"He's been terrific, he really has," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I feel like you got a real good chance to win every time he goes out there."

The Pirates drafted Maholm in the first round in 2003. They declined to exercise his $9.75 million option after he ended the '11 season on the disabled list, and Maholm signed with the Cubs. He kept up with the Pirates.

"I was rooting for them to have a good season and get over the hump," Maholm said. "Unfortunately, they fell a little short. I think winning's a big deal, and you can say they're heading in the right direction, but until you do it, then it's kind of a moot point. That's what I went through for my whole career, thinking we were getting close and never came through."

Usually around this time, Maholm would finalize his offseason plans, but now he and the Braves must prepare for the wild-card game, which most likely will come against St. Louis. Maholm will not pitch again unless the Braves advance to the National League Division Series.

"If I get the chance, I'm going to just go out there and do what I normally do and just expect to win the game," Maholm said.

Honor for McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen was nominated for the player's choice award in the player-of-the-year category, as well as National League's most outstanding player. He joins the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera and the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout as finalists for player of the year, and the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey and the Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun for the NL's most outstanding player.

Sheets' last stand

Gonzalez announced Tuesday that pitcher Ben Sheets will start today against the Pirates in the final regular-season game in place of Tim Hudson. Sheets told MLB.com he plans to retire after the game.

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