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CHC@PIT: Maholm wins ninth against former team

Cubs right-handers Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza have been two of the most talked about pitchers for the past couple of weeks leading into Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Neither of them, however, lead the team in wins.

That would be left-hander Paul Maholm (9-6, 3.88 ERA), who on Sunday takes the mound in the rubber game of a three-game series against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Maholm is on an historic roll for a franchise steeped in history. He is 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in five July games (four starts) and has posted five straight starts of at least six innings in which he's given up one or no runs -- a first by a Cubs left-hander since 1918.

Although Maholm doesn't get the publicity of some of his rotation mates, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said after the lefty's last start that his performance shouldn't be too surprising.

"Paulie is one of those guys who has been around a long time, but he's just coming into his own," Sveum said. "We forget he had a [3.66] ERA last year. If you have a [3.66] ERA, you had a pretty good year."

The Cardinals, who send right-hander Adam Wainwright (8-10, 4.31 ERA) to the hill, also are having a pretty good year as reigning World Series champions. Although they're chasing first-place Cincinnati, St. Louis is 7-2 in its last nine games and seemingly on a role in all facets of the game.

The Cardinals also played this way in April, when they went 14-8 to take an early lead in the National League Central. Some might say this is the way they envisioned the club playing all season, but first-year manager Mike Matheny isn't part of that group.

"I think that would be a dangerous statement to make," Matheny said. "We've been humbled this year at times, and I try not to get too far ahead of ourselves."

Cardinals: Freese expected back
• Third baseman David Freese (right calf cramp) is expected to return to the lineup for Sunday's series finale. Freese left Thursday's game with a cramp and hasn't started since, but he did run Saturday morning.

• Rafael Furcal sat Saturday and is likely to miss Sunday's game with back tightness.

• Wainwright turned in his longest outing since his May 22 complete game his last time out, working 7 1/3 innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. He has posted three quality starts in his last four outings.

Cubs: Eager for Deadline to pass
• Sveum has been answering questions about Tuesday's Trade Deadline for what must seem like an eternity for the first-year manager. Not surprisingly, Sveum admitted he and the players will be happy once Tuesday's Deadline passes.

"I think everybody is ready to get it behind us with everything that's happened and all the rumors, whether they happen or not," Sveum said. "I think everybody will be glad it's all over with. It's not over with a lot of times because of the waiver wires. I think the main [trade rumors] will be shut down one way or another."

• Garza (right triceps cramping) threw off flat ground Saturday for the first time since exiting his last start. He will throw a bullpen session Monday but is not expected to start until late next week.

Worth noting
• The Cubs are 11-3 in their last 14 home games.

• Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney is expected to return to the starting lineup Sunday. He entered as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning Saturday and remained in the game.

• St. Louis' Carlos Beltran (.429, 9-for-21), Furcal (.360, 9-for-25), Allen Craig (.545, 6-for-11) and Yadier Molina (.313, 10-for-32) have had success against Maholm in their careers. Comments