PITTSBURGH - All the trade speculation concerning Chicago Cubs pitchers seems to center around Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza.
Multiple reports say the Cubs have already agreed to trades for Dempster with both the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers and are awaiting his approval as he has the right to veto any deal. Many clubs have reportedly also expressed interest in Garza.
However, Cubs left-hander Paul Maholm might also be becoming attractive to contenders as he has been one of the top pitchers in the major leagues in recent weeks.
Maholm threw eight strong innings Tuesday night to win his fifth straight start and lead the Cubs over the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1.
Moments after the final out, the contending Pirates announced they had acquired pitcher Wandy Rodriguez in a trade with Houston. The Pirates had reportedly been interesting in reacquiring Maholm.
Maholm gave up one run and four hits in handing the Pittsburgh its first back-to-back home losses since May 22-23. He struck out seven and walked one.
Today: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates, 12:35 p.m.
Pitching matchup: Cubs RHP Ryan Dempster (5-4) vs. Pirates RHP Kevin Correia (7-6)
"I've made more than a few starts here and I enjoy pitching here," Maholm said of PNC Park. "Obviously, it's a pitcher-friendly park and if you make your pitches, it's going to work out well for a ground ball guy. I thought I did well and executed my pitches and it always help to get good defense and some runs to work with."
Maholm has allowed just four earned runs in 38 1-3 innings during his winning streak for an 0.94 ERA in that span. He spent his first seven seasons with the Pirates before signing with the Cubs as a free agent last winter.
"He's been great," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. "He's working in all four pitches and throwing them for strikes. He's not giving in to the other team. He's not doing anything he shouldn't be doing. He's well prepared and is executing his game plan. It's been fun to watch."
With a week to go until the July 31 deadline for making trades without securing waivers on players, Maholm says he is not paying much attention to rumors.
"I know there are some (rumors) out there but I signed to pitch with the Cubs and I'm not thinking about other teams," Maholm said. "I like the team I'm with. I've enjoyed playing in Chicago this season. I guess we'll see what happens in the next week."
Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano each homered off James McDonald (10-4), who had his career-high five-game winning streak snapped. David DeJesus hit a tiebreaking two-run double for Chicago, which had totaled just three runs in its previous four games.
DeJesus doubled to left in the fifth inning to put the Cubs ahead 3-1, the hit coming after Maholm drew a two-out walk to load the bases. Geovany Soto and Luis Valbuena, who had both also walked, scored on the double.
McDonald was touched for five runs and five hits in six innings while walking three and striking out six.
"I was actually pretty pleased with this outing," McDonald said. "The ball came out of my hand really well. I felt like I had good command of my pitches, especially my curveball. They hit some good pitches and that's going to happen sometimes."
Castro hit his ninth homer with one out in the first inning to open the scoring.
Pittsburgh's Garrett Jones answered with a solo shot in the fourth, his 14th of the season and first off a lefty since last Aug. 16 when he hit a game-ending homer off St. Louis' Arthur Rhodes.
Soriano's two-run homer in the fifth, his 19th, pushed the Cubs' lead to 5-1.
Chicago closer Carlos Marmol pitched a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation, working around a leadoff double by Neil Walker and a walk to Andrew McCutchen.
The Pirates had provided McDonald with 44 runs of support in six starts during his winning streak.
Game notes: Dempster (5-4, 2.11 ERA) is scheduled to start Wednesday against Pittsburgh RHP Kevin Correia in the finale of the three-game series. Dempster leads the major leagues in ERA. . Garza (strained right triceps) will not make his scheduled start Friday against the Cardinals and will be reevaluated that day. He was removed from his previous start last Saturday at St. Louis after pitching three scoreless innings. The Cubs are optimistic Garza will not need to be placed on the disabled list. ... Correia will be looking to extend his five-game winning streak, the best of his career. Correia is 6-1 in his last 10 starts since losing five straight starts from April 29-May 20.