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updated: 7/10/2011 6:38 PM

Cubs dominated by Pirates' Maholm — again

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  • Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano leans on teammate Blake DeWitt on Sunday while waiting to hit during batting practice at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

    Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano leans on teammate Blake DeWitt on Sunday while waiting to hit during batting practice at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
    Associated Press

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Entering the all-star break with the second-worst record in the majors, the Cubs are looking forward to the time off.

Andrew McCutchen homered and drove in 5 runs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cubs 9-1 on Sunday to enter the break with their best record in 19 years.

While Pittsburgh is flying high, the Cubs have fewer wins than they have had come all-star week since 2006.

"We can use a break," third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "Everybody knows that. Hopefully we can come back with a fresh mind and ready to go."

Rookie Darwin Barney had 2 hits Sunday for the Cubs, who have lost seven of 10.

Thirty-eight year-old starter Ramon Ortiz hardly gave the Cubs a chance, allowing 6 runs in 4-plus innings. The Cubs lost for the 15th time in 23 games, but all but 1 of the previous defeats in that stretch were by 3 runs or fewer.

"It's easy to say, but we've got to play better," outfielder Alfonso Soriano said. "Play better and see what happens in the second half."

Paul Maholm allowed 1 run in 7⅔ innings, and McCutchen had a 3-run homer and 2 sacrifice flies. Neil Walker went 3-for-4, and Alex Presley had 2 hits and scored 2 runs for Pittsburgh.

The surprising Pirates (47-43) have their best record and are closer to first place this late in the season than at any time since 1992, the last time they finished with a winning record.

"It's early, and everybody in here understands that we're going day to day and series to series," Maholm said. The Pirates remained a game behind St. Louis and Milwaukee in the National League Central.

"If we keep winning series, other stuff will take care of itself," Maholm added. "If we get to Sept. 15 or 20, then that will be time to worry about that stuff, but now it's win series and continue to be playing well and having fun."

The Pirates did that in front of another big crowd (31,428) at PNC Park on Sunday, improving to 7-1-1 in their past nine home series.

"We're getting our wins and competing with every single team," McCutchen said. "It's real good to finish up (the first half) strong."

A day after he made the all-star team for the first time, McCutchen already had a sacrifice fly when he came up with Presley and Walker aboard in the third. He sent an 0-1 pitch from Ortiz (0-2) into the Cubs' bullpen in left-center for his 14th homer.

During both the first and third innings, Presley singled and Walker hit a one-out double before McCutchen came up.

Walker tripled leading off the fifth to chase Ortiz. He scored on McCutchen's fly ball against Chris Carpenter.

Maholm (6-9) allowed 4 hits, finishing with 8 strikeouts and no walks. The left-hander improved to 9-2 in his career against the Cubs and has allowed only 1 run in 23⅓ innings against them this season.

Reed Johnson scored on Ramirez's fielder's choice in the fourth for the Cubs' first run off Maholm in 19 innings. Johnson started the inning with a double and moved to third on Starlin Castro's single.

The only other hits Maholm were by Barney, in the sixth and eighth.

Making his second start since his contract was purchased from Triple-A Iowa, Ortiz was allowed 7 hits and a walk.

"He competes," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "He just didn't have real good stuff today."

Ortiz realizes that he might not be in the Cubs' plans coming out of the all-star break, particularly after such a shaky performance.

"I don't have a contract for anything," he said. "I only have a contract to throw the ball, that's it. I don't want to think about what's going to happen.

"I felt good today," he added. "I missed a couple pitches high in the zone, and they hit it."

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