CHICAGO (AP) Paul Maholm looked shaky in his first two starts of the season, continuing a terrible stretch that started last year.
A couple weeks later, he's on quite the little roll.
Maholm pitched six crisp innings for his third consecutive win and the Chicago Cubs held on for a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.
''He's commanding every one of his pitches,'' manager Dale Sveum said. ''He's getting ahead in the counts and putting guys away, in a pretty easy fashion really as far as efficiency and pitch counts.''
Maholm (3-2) allowed one run and three hits while improving to 1-5 with a 4.91 ERA in nine career starts against Los Angeles. The left-hander has won his past three outings after dropping his first two, allowing three runs over 18 1-3 innings during the streak.
''Being aggressive, mixing pitches, mixing location,'' he said when asked about the run. ''I would say more of a confidence and a comfort factor, getting used to everything and just kind of pitching my game.''
Matt Kemp hit a run-scoring triple and scored on Andre Ethier's sacrifice fly to get Los Angeles within one in the eighth. But Kerry Wood got Juan Rivera to fly out to end the inning. Rafael Dolis then finished for his second save in three chances, taking advantage of his first opportunity since Carlos Marmol was removed from the closer's role.
''It's always tough to score runs,'' Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. ''Guys are making pitches. (Maholm) kept us off balance. As the game went on, our biggest issues were those guys getting two-out runs.''
David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano each had three hits to help the Cubs rebound from a disappointing loss at Cincinnati. Pinch-hitter Joe Mather homered in the sixth.
''To bounce back like we did I think says a lot about our team,'' Mather said.
Jerry Hairston hit a solo homer and a run-scoring triple for NL West-leading Los Angeles, which has dropped three of four. Chad Billingsley (2-2) gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings.
"I felt good, I just made some mistakes over the plate,'' Billingsley said. ''As far as everything else, I still felt pretty good out there.''
Sveum announced Friday he had decided to try a committee of relievers in the closer spot, making the move one day after Marmol walked three and failed to record an out while blowing a save opportunity in a 4-3 loss to the Reds. The erratic right-hander has two blown saves in four chances this season and a 6.23 ERA in 12 games overall.
''It just got to that point where we got to get him productive in some role and he was fine with it and understood,'' Sveum said. ''Hopefully we can get him going to where give him another chance and get him going to where he can get back in that role.''
The new approach worked out on the first day, but just barely.
The Cubs carried a 4-1 lead into the seventh but Ethier greeted James Russell with a leadoff double and scored on Hairston's two-out rope into right field. Hairston hustled around to third and A.J. Ellis followed with a walk against Shawn Camp, leaving runners on the corners.
But Camp responded by striking out pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu on four pitches in the veteran's first plate appearance with Los Angeles.
Maholm struck out four and walked none in his third consecutive sharp outing. He was struck on the right leg by Dee Gordon's sixth-inning comebacker, but remained in the game after a few warmup pitches.
''It squared me up pretty good, but luckily I got to finish the inning and we'll spend the next few days making sure it's good to go for the next one,'' he said.
Maholm became the first big league starter to win three straight games after a winless stretch of nine or more starts since Houston's Brett Myers last season, according to STATS, LLC. Maholm was 0-7 with a 7.03 ERA in nine previous starts before he beat Cincinnati on April 21.
Abreu signed with the Dodgers on Friday, insisting he was OK with a reserve role after years as a regular with the Angels, Philadelphia and the New York Yankees. He stayed in the game in left field after he struck out and lined out to right with a runner on first to end the game.
''It's tough for a guy to just show up in a locker room and then all of a sudden be in there, and then the game's on the line,'' Mattingly said.
NOTES: Cubs RHP Matt Garza (virus) was pushed back to Sunday and RHP Chris Volstad will start in his place on Saturday on regular rest. ... Cubs 1B Bryan LaHair singled in the seventh inning to extend his streak of reaching safely to 22 consecutive games. ... Infielder Justin Sellers was optioned to the Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Abreu on the roster. ... Sveum was ejected in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes with plate umpire Marty Foster.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/jcohenap