Maholm gem, big inning lift Cubs over Fish

Maholm gem, big inning lift Cubs over Fish

Maholm gem, big inning lift Cubs over Fish
CHICAGO -- Sometime soon, the Cubs will trade their valuable assets and build toward the future.

Until those deals happen, the 25 players on Chicago's roster figure they'll do everything they can to prove the Cubs aren't as bad as much of the first half indicated.

On Thursday, they once again did a pretty darn good job.

Cubs left-hander Paul Maholm tossed eight innings of one-run ball and left fielder Alfonso Soriano's solo home run sparked a four-run fifth, as the Cubs beat the Marlins, 4-2, on Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

The victory improved the Cubs to 14-5 in their last 19 games, the best record in the Majors since June 25. It also capped a 5-1 homestand coming out of the All-Star break, giving Chicago wins in 10 of its last 12 at Wrigley Field.

All of that from a team in sell mode as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline nears.

"This team is obviously pretty good," said outfielder Reed Johnson, who went 2-for-4 and made a diving catch in the eighth inning. "We've played some tough games and had some really good results of late, so hopefully it shows we're not as far away as we thought we were."

Thursday's recipe was similar to the Cubs' last 19 games: Solid starting pitching and timely hitting.

Maholm (8-6, 4.09 ERA) scattered five hits while walking one and striking out four. His lone blemish came in the sixth inning, when Marlins pinch-hitter Donovan Solano led off with a triple and scored on center fielder Emilio Bonifacio's groundout to second.

The left-hander earned his fourth straight win, trying a career high accomplished three times previously, including April 21-May 9 this season. He has a 0.89 ERA in that span.

"When your starters are going out there giving up one or none for six, seven innings, and the back end of that bullpen is doing their job, that's going to lead to a lot of wins," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

Marlins left-hander Mark Buehrle (9-9, 3.29) -- the former White Sox pitcher making his first start in Chicago since signing with Miami this offseason -- equaled Maholm through the first four innings before getting hit hard in the fifth.

Soriano led off the inning by launching Buehrle's 2-2 fastball into the left-field bleachers for the game's first run. It was Soriano's 18th homer of the season and 150th as a Cub. He is the 13th player in club history to reach that milestone.

Right fielder Jeff Baker followed with a single, catcher Geovany Soto walked and second baseman Darwin Barney also singled to load the bases. Third baseman Luis Valbuena lifted a sacrifice fly to deep center, scoring Baker and advancing both Soto and Barney. After Maholm struck out, Johnson hit a two-out, two-run single.

"Soriano's home run was huge," Sveum said. "Obviously he was pitching well, and then to come back and Reed Johnson's two-out base hit to left field was kind of the backbreaker for Buehrle."

Solano pinch-hit for Buehrle in the sixth, as the lefty was removed after allowing four runs on six hits as his four-game winning streak was snapped. Despite being 10-18 against left-handed starters this season, the Cubs have now won six of their last seven, and seven of their last nine such contests.

"Today, it seemed like it was a close game for the first four innings, and then they scored some runs, and the crowd was kind of into it a little bit," said Buehrle, who lost to the Cubs for the first time since June 22, 2007.

Johnson, who shifted to right field in the eighth inning, also made a diving catch in the right-center field gap in the top of the eighth. Shortstop Starlin Castro climbed the ladder to rob Jose Reyes of a hit in the sixth, while Soriano made a nice running catch in the fourth.

"It was huge. I'm sure if that gets by him, I'm probably done," Maholm said of Johnson's catch. "Whenever he hit it, I kind of gave up in my mind that he just got a triple. Reed, obviously, is a very good defensive outfielder and made an unbelievable catch."

Cubs closer Carlos Marmol allowed one run in the ninth before converting his 10th straight save opportunity.

The Cubs now leave the Friendly Confines and travel to St. Louis, where they begin a three-game series with the Cardinals on Friday and look to continue to ride their momentum.

"Obviously at the beginning of the year, it was going in the other direction for us," Johnson said. "We had losing streaks and we were trying too hard to get out of those losing streaks that we kept going in the wrong direction. When you're winning ballgames, you want to keep that good feel, and I think that's what's going on."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.