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Pirates 9, Cubs 1: Paul Maholm Rolls As Bucs Crush Ramon Ortiz

The Pirates got to Ramon Ortiz on Sunday, as they should, with the top half of the lineup in particular really taking him behind the woodshed. The Bucs' half of the first got off to a great start, when Alex Presley singled, Chase D'Arnaud lined out and Neil Walker doubled. Andrew McCutchen then hit a sacrifice fly, and Lyle Overbay grounded out. It seemed like a shame that the Bucs only got one run there, because it really looked like batting practice for the first few batters.

The Bucs got their chance in the third, when Paul Maholm led off with a walk (!), Presley singled (again) and Walker doubled (again). This time, McCutchen drilled a three-run homer to center.

Meanwhile, Maholm was really taking care of business - he racked up eight strikeouts in 7.2 innings, and also managed to get double plays in each of the first four innings, which isn't easy to do when you strike out that many batters. He left in the eighth to a huge round of applause and tipped his cap - it was a great moment.

The Bucs kept adding, picking up three runs in the eighth on a two-run double by Garrett Jones and a wild pitch that scored Michael McKenry

Walker had three extra-base hits on the afternoon, and McCutchen had the homer and five RBIs.

Just a couple of minor negative points: first, it's amazing that Matt Diaz entered the game with a .301 average against righties. He frequently looks awful against them, and a friend I was watching the game with (who understands the game but doesn't follow the Pirates closely) was able to pick out Diaz from the upper deck without looking at the scoreboard, because Diaz was the one lunging at everything.

Also, if Clint Hurdle isn't going to use his best relievers in the late innings of a tie game because "they can't pitch every night" and because of their number of appearances, then Chris Resop and Jose Veras should not be pitching in the late innings of a game that isn't close. You want to keep their appearance totals down? Today would have been a great day to do so.

Other than that, and a bad throw by Chase D'Arnaud, this was a nice game, and again (and I know I've said stuff like this a lot recently, but it bears repeating), it's really nice to go to the park and have confidence that the Pirates can basically take care of business, avoiding dumb mistakes and taking advantage of opportunities presented by the other team. Having Ramon Ortiz on the mound presented a great opportunity, and for all their offense woes, the 2011 Pirates took it. The 2010 Pirates probably would not have.

Also, the Bucs announced during the game that Kevin Correia had officially made the All-Star team. I'm not sure he deserved to go, but three Pirates will be there, which is terrific.

The Bucs head into the All-Star break with a 47-43 record.