Streaking lefty Paul Maholm can give the Chicago Cubs another chance to be a spoiler tonight when they visit the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second test of a three-game series at PNC Park.
The Cubs won Monday's opener, 2-0, and knocked the Pirates another game off the pace in the National League's Central Division chase when Jeff Samardzija fired eight scoreless innings of one-hit ball.
Samardzija (7-8) struck out five and walked just one, with the only hit coming on an infield single in the fourth inning from Andrew McCutchen.
"He was pretty impressive," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "No doubt the best stuff he had."
Carlos Marmol worked around a leadoff single in the ninth to nail down his 12th save of the season.
The Cubs, who were outscored 23-1 during a three-game sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend, managed just four hits as a team but got a pair of RBI doubles from Alfonso Soriano to earn the victory.
Erik Bedard (5-11) was equally impressive in defeat, giving up just one run on two hits and two walks while tying a season-high with 11 strikeouts, but with just two hits, the Pirates saw their five-game winning streak come to an end.
"We've been scoring runs and for you to throw up a goose egg on the board and not being able to help your starting pitcher out, you hate it," McCutchen said.
The Pirates trail the Cincinnati Reds by 1 1/2 games in the Central.
Chicago's Maholm faces his former team for the second time after spending seven seasons with the Pirates after they drafted him eighth overall in 2003.
Maholm allowed two runs on four hits in five innings of the initial matchup and got a no-decision in the Pirates' 3-2 win.
He lost four straight decisions between May 20 and June 23, but has won four straight since - including a 4-2 defeat of Miami in his last assignment on July 19.
Maholm's allowed one run or zero runs in five straight starts while lowering his earned run average from 5.39 to 4.09.
For the Pirates, righty James McDonald goes for a sixth straight winning decision in a stretch that began in mid-June.
McDonald dropped a 2-0 decision at Cleveland on June 15, but has reeled off five wins in six starts since, including two since the All-Star break.
He was a 9-6 winner at Colorado on July 18 in spite of allowing six runs on nine hits in five innings, which raised his ERA from 2.59 to 2.93.
McDonald is 0-1 in four career meetings with the Cubs.
The Pirates swept a three-game series between the teams in Pittsburgh in late May, outscoring the Cubs, 14-6.
The teams split 16 games last season and Chicago last won the season series in 2009.