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CHC@PIT: Maholm wins ninth against former team

PITTSBURGH -- Paul Maholm didn't know who Hippo Vaughn is, but he does now.

Maholm one-upped Vaughn, a fellow lefty, by posting his fifth straight start of at least six innings while giving up one run or fewer on Tuesday in the Cubs' 5-1 win over the Pirates.

Vaughn did so in four straight starts in 1918. Maholm (9-6) now has five efficient wins in a row.

"I wasn't around for that stretch," Maholm said when asked about Vaughn. "I'm going to continue to try to be consistent and go out there and get deep in the games and hope the defense works out and put some runs on the board."

Vaughn pitched for the Cubs from 1913-21 and holds several team records for left-handed pitchers. The name wasn't familiar to Maholm, unless he read the team's pregame notes.

"He's probably not around to see me," Maholm said. "He doesn't know me, either."

Back to the present: Maholm held the Pirates to four hits over eight innings and improved to 5-0 in his last five starts. He's been charged with four earned runs over his last 37 1/3 innings.

"He's staying to the game plan, not shaking off, not doing anything that he shouldn't be doing, and he's just making all his pitches," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

The Cubs got enough offense, as Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run home run, Starlin Castro added a solo shot and David DeJesus hit a two-run double as the Cubs clinched a series victory.

Maholm now leads the Cubs in wins.

"Paulie is one of those guys who has been around a long time, but he's just coming into his own," Sveum said. "We forget he had a 3.60 earned run average last year. If you have a 3.60 earned run average, you had a pretty good year."

The Pirates' only run came on Garrett Jones' solo homer in the fourth. This was Maholm's 98th career start at PNC Park, which he called home from 2005 until last season. He also pitched at Pittsburgh in May but didn't get a decision in that game, which the Cubs lost. But Maholm did eat at Moe's, a pregame favorite of the left-hander.

He also didn't avoid saying hello to his former teammates.

"Whenever I was out in the outfield warming up, I talked to the bullpen catcher and the bullpen coach and just said hello to the pitching coach," Maholm said. "Those guys, I'm close to. I told them hello and that we're not friends for the next three hours and I'll talk to you tomorrow.

"[The Pirates] have got a good thing going over there. I enjoyed my time there. But I'm enjoying my time in Chicago, too. I wanted to come in and spoil some things."

"We know Paul," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Paul had four consecutive games of six innings with one run. I think he broke or tied a record that's been around for 94 years or something, or whatever. He's capable of getting outs, too. He pitched very effectively tonight."

We'll tell Hurdle about Vaughn later.

Maholm's start followed Jeff Samardzija's eight one-hit, shutout innings on Monday. Since June 25, the Cubs are 16-8, and the pitchers have a 3.84 ERA and have held opponents to a .254 batting average.

"For a month now, besides a couple hiccups, it's been as good a starting staff in earned run average in baseball," Sveum said.

Castro gave Maholm some support in the first, hitting his ninth home run of the season, but Jones matched that with two outs in the fourth, hitting his first home run of the season off a left-handed pitcher and 14th overall.

With one out in the top of the fifth, Geovany Soto walked and one out later, losing pitcher James McDonald (10-4) intentionally walked Luis Valbuena to face Maholm. But Maholm drew a walk on four pitches, and DeJesus followed with his double to right, giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead.

Anthony Rizzo singled in the Chicago sixth, and Soriano then hit his 19th home run. All have come since May 15. He is one big swing away from his 11th straight season with at least 20 home runs. It was career home run No. 359 for Soriano, who has has moved past Yogi Berra for 77th on the all-time list.

The Cubs have won seven of their last nine series.

After the game, the Pirates announced they'd made a trade with the Astros for left-hander Wandy Rodriguez. There had been rumors that Pittsburgh might consider bringing Maholm back.

"Good for them," Maholm said of the Rodriguez deal. "There's going to be rumors for the next week. You've got to deal with them. They have a plan over there, and they're doing what they think is best for the team."

And right now, Maholm is doing very well for the Cubs.

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