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ATL@CHC: Maholm pitches seven scoreless frames

CHICAGO -- The Cubs were in the right place at the right time for Paul Maholm.

Bryan LaHair hit a well-placed RBI single in the seventh to give Maholm all he needed and lead the Cubs to a 1-0 victory Wednesday over the Braves to claim the series and win for the fifth time in the last eight games.

Maholm (4-2) now has won four in a row after a nine-game winless stretch that had dated back to last season. He limited Atlanta to three hits over seven scoreless innings, and in his last four games, has yielded just three earned runs over 25 1/3 innings (1.07 ERA).

"I'm going to have another rough outing at some point, that's part of baseball," Maholm said, "but I'm going to ride this as long as I possibly can and hopefully for a good while."

What helped Maholm vs. the Braves was not just his ability to keep the ball on the ground but also the defensive positioning behind him.

"I think Chipper [Jones] thought he'd be 3-for-3, and Starlin [Castro] and [Darwin] Barney made some great plays," Maholm said. "The whole infield, they've been picking me up the last four games."

The Cubs play the odds. Barney was perfectly positioned behind second base in the sixth when Atlanta had runners at first and third with two outs. Maholm got Jones to line out to the second baseman.

"I saw it all the way, and it's almost like it caught a seam and cut on me a little bit," Barney said.

Said Maholm: "The one where Chipper almost hit me in the forehead and Barney caught it -- it's scary, and it's very good."

Jones was also robbed in the second when Castro made a great stop on a hard-hit ball, and he nearly slammed his bat in frustration after flying out to deep left to open the ninth in what was likely his last at-bat at Wrigley Field.

"[Maholm] is a guy who is going to keep you off-balance," Jones said. "When you get your opportunities, you've got to take advantage. We thought we did. We hit it right into the shift. Give him his due. He pitched well."

It seemed to be perfect timing for Braves starter Tim Hudson (1-1), who favors pitching in daylight with a 63-24 career mark now in day games. He was efficient, facing the minimum through six innings. How good was the right-hander? He needed just six pitches to retired the side in the fifth inning.

"There's not a lot of rest time in between for either one of us," Maholm said about facing Hudson. "He's had a great career. You know him -- you know he's a ground-ball guy, you know he's a competitor and gets after it and gets ahead of guys. You've got to throw up zeros."

Castro tried to get the Cubs on the board in the fourth when he hit a ball near the right-field line past a diving Jason Heyward. But Heyward recovered and relayed the ball to second baseman Dan Uggla, who easily threw out Castro at home. Third-base coach Pat Listach waved Castro home.

"It's one of those things, it still took a good relay throw," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the play. "With two outs there, you're hoping for a bad skip or bad relay throw. Sometimes as the third-base coach, you like pushing the envelope, especially in a game when you feel it'll be a tough time scoring runs, and sure enough it was a game like that."

The Cubs finally broke through in the seventh. David DeJesus singled to lead off and moved up on two groundouts before scoring on LaHair's single. LaHair has reached base safely in 27 straight games, and he has 17 RBIs in his last 21 games. Maholm noticed Braves shortstop Jack Wilson had moved slightly, and LaHair adjusted.

"The first at-bat, they didn't have the big shift on him and Jack was on the shortstop side and when he got the RBI single, I looked out there and saw that Jack had moved a few steps," Maholm said. "[LaHair] is just taking what they give him. That's what you want from a power guy. He's not up there trying to hook everything. If they're going to pitch him away, he'll go with it."

LaHair said the Braves seemed to be making their own adjustments against him each at-bat.

"I haven't seen a fastball that much the whole series after the first two at-bats of the series," LaHair said. "I had a feeling maybe [Hudson] would try to get ahead away, and before I stepped in the box I thought about hitting that hole and I got the pitch I was looking for."

It's not that easy, folks.

The Cubs have a 2.51 ERA in their last 17 games, and are 10-7 in that stretch. Next up is a series against the Brewers at Miller Park. The 3-11 start to the season is nearly forgotten.

"We have a lot of work to do," Barney said. "The pitching has been phenomenal. LaHair has come up with big hits in big situations. I think when everybody starts chipping in a little more, we can be dangerous."

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