Pirates 9, Cubs 1

Paul Maholm and his Pirates teammates aren’t looking at the

National League Central standings or checking the out-of-town

scores.

Too early in the season, the lefty starter said. Funny, because

it’s been a long time since Pittsburgh’s been this good this

late.

Andrew McCutchen homered and drove in five runs, and the Pirates

beat the Chicago Cubs 9-1 on Sunday to enter the All-Star break

with their best record in 19 years.

”It’s early, and everybody in here understands that we’re going

day-to-day and series-to-series,” Maholm said. The Pirates

remained a game behind St. Louis and Milwaukee in the National

League Central when both also won on Sunday.

”If we keep winning series, other stuff will take care of

itself,” Maholm added. ”If we get to Sept. 15 or 20, then that

will be time to worry about that stuff, but now it’s win series and

continue to be playing well and having fun.”

The Pirates did that in front of another big crowd (31,428) at

PNC Park on Sunday, improving to 7-1-1 in their past nine home

series.

Maholm allowed one run in 7 2-3 innings, and McCutchen had a

three-run homer and two sacrifice flies. Neil Walker went 3 for 4,

and Alex Presley had two hits and scored two runs for

Pittsburgh.

The surprising Pirates (47-43) have their best record and are

closer to first place this late in the season than at any time

since their most recent winning season in 1992.

”We’re getting our wins and competing with every single team,”

McCutchen said. ”It’s real good to finish up (the first half)

strong.”

Rookie Darwin Barney had two hits for the Cubs, who have lost

seven of 10.

A day after he made the All-Star team for the first time,

McCutchen already had a sacrifice fly when he came up with Presley

and Walker aboard in the third. He sent an 0-1 pitch from Ramon

Ortiz (0-2) into the Cubs’ bullpen in left-center for his 14th

homer.

During both the first and third innings, Presley singled and

Walker hit a one-out double before McCutchen came up.

Walker tripled leading off the fifth to chase Ortiz. He scored

on McCutchen’s fly ball against Chris Carpenter.

Maholm (6-9) allowed four hits, finishing with eight strikeouts

and no walks. The left-hander improved to 9-2 in his career against

the Cubs and has allowed only one run in 23 1-3 innings against

them this season.

Reed Johnson scored on Aramis Ramirez’s fielder’s choice in the

fourth for Chicago’s first run off Maholm in 19 innings this

season. Johnson started the inning with a double and moved to third

on Starlin Castro’s single.

The only other hits Maholm were by Barney, in the sixth and

eighth.

Chris Resop got Johnson to fly out to end the eighth, and Jose

Veras finished the four-hitter.

Since shutting out Chicago on May 28, Maholm is 5-2 with a 2.29

ERA in nine starts.

Via hit batters and Pittsburgh errors, Chicago had baserunners

Sunday, but the Pirates turned a double play in each of the first

four innings.

”If you play good baseball, you’ve got a chance to win,”

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ”We played better than them

today. We flat-out out-pitched them, we out-fielded them and

out-hit them. That gives you a chance to win.”

Making his second start since his contract was purchased from

Triple-A Iowa, the 38-year-old Ortiz was charged with six runs and

seven hits.

”He competes,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. ”He just didn’t

have real good stuff today.”

Ortiz realizes that he might not be in the Cubs’ plans coming

out of the All-star break, particularly after such a shaky

performance.

”I don’t have a contract for anything,” he said. ”I only have

a contract to throw the ball, that’s it. I don’t want to think

about what’s going to happen.

”I felt good today,” he added. ”I missed a couple pitches

high in the zone, and they hit it.”

Notes: Pittsburgh RHP Kevin Correia was added to the NL All-Star

team as a replacement for Phillies LHP Cole Hamels. The selection

gives the Pirates three All-stars for the first time since 1990.

… The Pirates are expected to activate LHP Joe Beimel from the

disabled list in time for their next game on Friday. … Walker has

hit safely in all 18 of his career games against the Cubs and

McCutchen has reached safely in each of his past 23 games against

Chicago. … Chicago lost for the 15th time in its past 23 games,

but all but one of the previous defeats in that stretch were by

three runs or less.