Amid trade rumors Dempster takes the hill at PNC Park

Right-hander Ryan Dempster makes what could be his final start in a Chicago uniform today when the Cubs go for the sweep in the finale of a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

With the trade deadline looming at the end of the month, the 35-year-old Canadian has been a hot topic of rumors - especially during a stretch of five starts between June 5 and July 14 in which he pitched 33 straight scoreless innings.

The streak finally ended in his last start on July 20 at St. Louis, when the Cardinals scored three times in the first inning and four runs in six innings overall while handing Dempster a 4-1 loss that dropped him to 5-4 on the season.

Specific reports surfaced Monday that Dempster was en route to Atlanta, but no official deal has been worked out. Because he's a 10-year veteran and has five years of service with the Cubs, he can refuse any deal and reportedly his preference is to be deal to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I want to look everything over before I make a decision, and I've got time to do that," he said. "There's a week before the trade deadline."

In Tuesday's second game with the Pirates, ex-Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm turned in eight solid innings against his former mates and Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer in a 5-1 win.

Maholm (9-6), a Pirate from 2005 through the end of last season, scattered four hits - including a Garrett Jones solo homer - and walked one while fanning seven.

"Everything he's got right now is working. He's locating, he's coming up with all four pitches, making the pitches when he needs them," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He's really prepared and it obviously showed."

Starlin Castro also homered and David DeJesus added a two-run double for the Cubs, who were swept at St. Louis over the weekend.

James McDonald (10-4) allowed five runs and five hits with three walks and six strikeouts in six full frames for the Pirates, who had won five in a row before Chicago came to the Steel City.

The loss was mitigated by the announcement following the game that the Bucs acquired starter Wandy Rodriguez and cash from the Houston Astros in exchange for three players.

"We ripped the rear-view mirror off the front of the car a long time ago," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're just looking forward. We got to find a way to get up. We know we're a good ball club that can compete and win games."

For the Pirates, right-hander Kevin Correia makes his 150th major-league start in search of a sixth consecutive victory.

The San Diego native, who'll turn 33 next month, was 2-6 on the season after a 7-1 interleague loss at Baltimore on June 13, but is 5-0 in six starts since.

He pitched five innings and allowed three runs on eight hits in his last outing, a 4-3 defeat of Miami on July 20.

Correia last faced the Cubs on May 26 and got a no-decision in Pittsburgh's 3-2 win after pitching 6 1/3 innings of six-hit, two-run ball.

Lifetime against Chicago, he's 3-4 in 13 appearances.

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.