Yet there are likely plenty of teams also paying attention to the best stretch of Paul Maholm 's career.
Maholm will try become the first Cubs left-hander in five seasons to win six consecutive starts Sunday when his team's series concludes with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Little was expected of the Cubs (41-58) this season, but new team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer arrived with big plans to rebuild a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game in nine years.
Dempster and Garza were thought to have the greatest trade value, but Dempster has been flexing his 10-and-5 veto rights and Garza's triceps injury could hurt Chicago's chances of getting equal return in a deal.
The Cubs, though, may have caught a break with Maholm (9-6, 3.88 ERA) pitching so well the last four weeks. The left-hander has a 0.96 ERA during his five-start streak after striking out seven in eight innings of Tuesday's 5-1 win at Pittsburgh."He's been great," manager Dale Sveum said. "He's working in all four pitches and throwing them for strikes. He's not giving in to the other team. He's not doing anything he shouldn't be doing. He's well prepared and is executing his game plan."
There is plenty of speculation about where Maholm may end up, but his concern is the Cardinals (54-47). He is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts against them this season."I know there are some (rumors) out there but I signed to pitch with the Cubs and I'm not thinking about other teams," said Maholm, who could become the first Cubs southpaw to win six straight starts since Ted Lilly from June 26-July 25, 2007. "I like the team I'm with. I've enjoyed playing in Chicago this season. I guess we'll see what happens in the next week."
The Cubs, winners of 11 of 14 at home, will face Adam Wainwright (8-10, 4.31) for the third time this season after snapping St. Louis' four-game winning streak and a five-game skid in this Central matchup with Saturday's 3-2 victory.
The St. Louis right-hander is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA against the Cubs this season after recording seven strikeouts in six strong innings of a 3-2, 10-inning loss April 24. Wainwright, the 2010 NL Cy Young runner-up, had won his previous five starts on the North Side - all coming prior to his elbow surgery that sidelined him in 2011.
Cardinals third baseman David Freese , who is batting .571 (16 for 28) during a nine-game hitting streak, is expected to see his first action of the series after sitting out with cramping in his right calf. Last season's NLCS and World Series MVP has two hits - including a homer - in 11 at-bats versus Maholm.
Left fielder Matt Holliday , 18 for 52 with five homers and 10 RBIs off Cubs pitching this season, is 6 for 29 with three homers against the left-hander.
Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano - 3 for 5 with a double against Wainwright this season - has seven RBIs in the last four contests.
St. Louis has won eight of 13 versus Chicago and can clinch the season series with a victory.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|July 26, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left game - right calf cramp|
|July 24, 2012||Lance Berkman||Day-to-Day||Left game - HBP right knee|
|July 17, 2012||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left thigh|
|July 08, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Bruised left leg|
|June 06, 2012||Jaime Garcia||15-Day DL||Strained left shoulder|
|June 06, 2012||Jaime Garcia||60-Day DL||Sprained left shoulder|
|July 21, 2012||Matt Garza||Day-to-Day||Left game - right triceps cramp|
|June 16, 2012||Ryan Dempster||15-Day DL||Right lat tightness|
|June 16, 2012||Ryan Dempster||15-Day DL||Right lat tightness|
|June 13, 2012||Ian Stewart||15-Day DL||Sore left wrist|
|June 02, 2012||Blake Parker||60-Day DL||Stress reaction in right elbow|
|May 19, 2012||Welington Castillo||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
CHICAGO (AP) -- Anthony Rizzo checked off another milestone as he continues to live up to the hype.
Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning and lifted the Chicago Cubs over the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 on Sunday.
Starlin Castro led off the inning with a single against Trevor Rosenthal (0-1), and Rizzo followed with his seventh homer - and first game-ender.
"This is the best," an elated Rizzo said. "This is something I've always dreamed of doing since I was a little kid. I've never done it before. Not in the minors, not in little league, not ever.
"This is awesome."
James Russell (5-0) worked an inning for the win. The Cubs are 12-3 in their last 15 home games, and 17-10 since Rizzo was called up in June.
The 22-year-old slugger didn't remember running around the bases or getting mobbed by teammates at the plate. He maintained his presence of mind leading up to the big hit.
"Later innings, guys press a little harder. I see a lot of veteran hitters throughout baseball always just relaxed at the plate, taking pitches and not being too aggressive," Rizzo said. "That's something I took into this at-bat.
"I'm always a little overanxious in situations like that, and took a clean swing and let the rest take care of itself."
A struggling Carlos Beltran homered off Shawn Camp with one out in the St. Louis eighth, tying it at 2. The opposite-field solo shot was his 23rd homer, but just his third in July. The All-Star is hitting .188 this month.
Cubs starter Paul Maholm allowed one run and four hits over 6 2-3 innings. He walked four and struck out five.
Maholm exited with the bases loaded in the seventh, and Manny Corpas retired Allen Craig on a fly ball to end the threat.
Maholm has allowed one run or fewer in six straight starts, becoming the first lefty in modern Cubs history to do so. He had won the previous five outings.
"He is arguably the best pitcher in the last month in all of baseball," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "That's the best lineup in the National League and by far the best right-handed hitting lineup in the National League, too.
"He did one heck of a job against the best."
Even with trade rumors flying around, the rebuilding Cubs have kept on winning.
"There's a reason I signed here. I've always enjoyed playing here throughout my career," Maholm said. "They gave me a chance to come in and prove that I was healthy, and I am. Hopefully we can turn this into a long-term thing. We'll see how everything unfolds and go from there."
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright gave up two runs in six innings. He wasn't fooling anybody early, allowing six of the first nine batters to reach base.
David DeJesus tripled in the first and scored on Castro's groundout. Darwin Barney doubled in the second and scored on an error in the second.
Barney had two doubles and a single.
Wainwright settled down to retire 12 of his final 14 batters.
"No fastball control whatsoever. Luckily, I had a good breaking ball and a good cutter going," Wainwright said. "Early on we had to make some adjustments on how we were going to attack guys and try to figure out a way to make it work."
Beltran's homer got Wainwright off the hook for what could have been his first loss in 13 career appearances at Wrigley Field. Wainwright is 5-0 at the ballpark, including his 20th win in 2010 when he finished second in the NL Cy Young voting.
The Cardinals threatened several times but were largely unable to get the big hit, leaving 10 men on base.
"(Maholm) kept us off balance," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He did a nice job of pitching, mixed up everything - used both sides of the plate, up and down. We couldn't get anything going."
Despite a throwing error that allowed Barney to score in the second, shortstop Daniel Descalso made several exceptional defensive plays, including a dazzling diving stab and throw in the third to rob Rizzo of a hit.
NOTES: Cardinals SS Rafael Furcal (back tightness) missed a second straight game. Trainer Greg Hauck said he doesn't expect it to be an extended absence. ... Cardinals 1B Lance Berkman (general soreness) was also held out of the starting lineup, but he pinch-hit in the seventh, drawing a walk. He was immediately removed for a pinch-runner. ... Sveum is still undecided on his Monday starter against Pittsburgh, but said it will most likely be Justin Germano (0-1, 1.04 ERA), who was acquired from Boston on July 19. The Pirates send Erik Bedard (5-11, 4.32) to the mound for the series opener. ... St. Louis' Kyle Lohse (10-2, 2.71) will face Jeff Francis (3-2, 4.97) in the series opener at Colorado on Tuesday.