Cubs' Maholm roaring into trade deadline

PITTSBURGH -- With the non-waiver trade deadline approaching, the Chicago Cubs' hottest pitcher isn’t Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza.

Paul Maholm continued his impressive run in some familiar territory as he handcuffed his former team, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Maholm was right at home in allowing just one run on four hits over eight innings and is now on something of a historic run for the Cubs.

Maholm became the first Cubs left-hander to deliver five consecutive starts of at least six innings, while allowing one earned run or less, since 1918.

“I wasn’t around to see that old stretch,” Maholm joked. “I’m going to continue to be consistent and get deep into games, hope the defense works out, we put runs on the board and see how long I keep pitching well.”

The ability to put any pitch wherever he wants at any point in the count has been doing Maholm wonders as his starts keep building on one another.

“He’s been coming out with all four pitches every night,” manager Dale Sveum said. “He’s staying with the game plan, he’s not shaking off, he’s not doing anything that he shouldn’t be doing. He’s making all the pitches and getting ground-ball double plays and strikeouts. He’s really prepared and doing obviously a great job. It’s something you don’t see too often after five or six starts.”

Maholm’s name has even cropped up in trade talk over the last few weeks, but one suspected landing spot doesn’t seem like a possibility any longer. As Maholm was in cruise control, the Pirates front office went out and traded for Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, announcing the move after the game.

Maholm still must look good to other potential suitors with his Cubs-leading nine victories and an ERA that dropped to 3.88. It’s enough to consider him a leader on a staff that was supposed to have Dempster and Garza pulling the train.

“Paulie is just one of those guys that’s been around for a long time and I think he’s somewhat coming into his own too,” Sveum said. We forget he had a 3.6 ERA last year even if the wins and losses aren’t there. You have a 3.6 ERA and you have a pretty good year. You take his first start away and maybe one other one and he’s been pretty good for most of the year.”

Maholm is in line to start Sunday at home against the St. Louis Cardinals. After that there are just two more days until the trade deadline to see if he stays or heads to a contender. With a contract option for under $7 million next season, Maholm could be a solid buy.

Then again, with the Pirates getting a left-hander, Dempster still in limbo with his trade situation and Garza dealing with a nagging injury, maybe everybody stays put.

“Obviously Dempster has his own decision to make and that’s his right,” Maholm said. “It’s kind of like being a free agent in the middle of the season. He’s going to pick the spot that is best for him and his family. We all might be here come Tuesday and we won’t have to keep answering the [trade] questions.”