AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) - Paul Maholm pitched eight innings, Alfonso Soriano homered and the Cubs beat the Miami Marlins 4-2 Thursday, ruining Mark Buehrle's return to Chicago.
Maholm allowed one run and four hits to win his fourth consecutive start, matching a career best. Including his first career relief appearance July 8 against the Mets, the left-hander has allowed just three runs in his last 30 1-3 innings for an impressive 0.89 ERA over his last five games.
Pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs delivered an RBI single in the ninth before Carlos Marmol finished the five-hitter for his 11th save in 13 chances to give Chicago it's 14th win in 19 games.
Buehrle was back in the Windy City for the first time since he left the White Sox for a $58 million, four-year contract with Miami, where he was reunited with manager Ozzie Guillen. The left-hander won 161 games in 12 seasons in Chicago and was greeted with mostly cheers when he batted for the first time in the third inning.
Buehrle's big free-agent deal was part of a major offseason overhaul for the Marlins, who also signed shortstop Jose Reyes and closer Heath Bell. While Reyes and Bell have underperformed, Buehrle (9-9) has been the most dependable member of Miami's rotation. He leads the team in wins and innings, and has one of the club's two complete games this season.
Reyes' difficult season continued Thursday when he was robbed of a pair of hits in the series finale. Shortstop Starlin Castro made a leaping grab of his liner in the sixth and Reed Johnson had a terrific diving catch in right-center in the eighth.
Buehrle and Maholm (8-6) were in a scoreless pitchers' duel before Soriano hit a leadoff drive into the left-field basket in the fifth for his 18th homer, bolstering his credentials ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadlines. The slugger batted .391 (9 for 23) with three homers and six RBIs on Chicago's 5-1 homestand.
Soriano's laser-like shot seemed to spark the Cubs' lineup. The next three batters reached to load the bases, and Luis Valbuena hit a sacrifice fly to center field. Maholm struck out for the second out, but Johnson followed with a liner into left field to give Chicago a 4-0 advantage.
That was more than enough for Maholm, who allowed the leadoff hitter to reach in each of the first three innings but escaped unscathed each time.
Pinch-hitter Donovan Solano tripled and scored on Emilio Bonifacio's grounder in the sixth for Miami's first run.
NOTES: RHP Ryan Dempster is scheduled to start for the Cubs when they open a three-game series at St. Louis on Friday night. Dempster (5-3), who is working on a 33-inning scoreless streak and a major league-best 1.86 ERA, is expected to be traded before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, but said before Thursday's game he didn't know of any imminent deals. "I'm sure if they have something they'll come to me," said Dempster, who can veto any trade. "But right now I'm just worried about trying to get ready for tomorrow's game." Kyle Lohse (9-2, 2.80 ERA) will start for the Cardinals. ... Miami travels to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates. RHP Ricky Nolasco (8-7, 4.47 ERA) and Pirates RHP Kevin Correia (6-6, 4.25 ERA) are slated to meet in Friday night's series opener.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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