Popups help Maholm to stay grounded

Cubs starter Paul Maholm posted his second straight win on Friday night. Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA -- Ground balls continued to be Paul Maholm's forte Friday, it’s just that he needed a couple of popups first to get him into the spot he needed.

On the ropes in the first inning with runners on the corners and nobody out, Maholm got back-to-back popups from Jimmy Rollins and Hunter Pence to extricate himself from a jam before going on to dominate the Philadelphia Phillies and their ace starter Roy Halladay.

The Cubs left-hander, who hadn’t won a game since July of last season until he beat the Cincinnati Reds last weekend, made it two consecutive by giving up just one run over 6 1/3 innings Friday.

“Obviously you’re not looking to go [runners on] first and third with three, four and five coming up, but I was looking for a ground-ball double play to give up one and go from there,” Maholm said.

Even he didn’t have the expectation that he would do what it took to keep the Phillies off the board, but he did it anyway.

“Paulie was once again commanding his fastball,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Sometimes he loses sight that he’s really a sinker ball pitcher but that’s what he is and he used it. I think the big thing too was when he needed his curveball, he had it.”

After the first inning it was ground balls all the time, getting the Phillies to roll into 10 of their next 12 outs on the way to six scoreless innings. The Phillies finally broke through against Maholm when Ty Wigginton crushed a seventh-inning home run on a ball well up in the zone.

By then the offense had scratched out three runs against Halladay before adding a pair of key insurance runs in the ninth inning.

“It was just keeping the ball down, mixing speeds, staying away and coming in when I had to,” Maholm said. “But I think [catcher] Geo [Soto] did a good job of executing the game plan and going with the pitches that were working. The infield also made a lot of great plays.”