PITTSBURGH -- Before the season began, Cubs manager Mike Quade said he was looking forward to putting his mark on the team from the beginning. He's got more work to do.
Andrew McCutchen tuned up for the All-Star Game by driving in five runs in the Pirates' 9-1 victory on Sunday over the Cubs, who are in need of a three-day break.
Chicago has placed 13 players on the disabled list, including two starting pitchers after their first turns. At the halfway point, does Quade feel he's accomplished what he wanted?
"[Heck] no," he said. "It's been a rough half, period. You can't deny that, you can't go away from that. Right now the job is to have a better second half, get better overall and get better with the kids.
"I take a look at the club and look at guys' first halves, and it's a little perplexing," he added. "The game boils down to pitching, and that's been tough. But I look at [Aramis Ramirez]. I look at [Starlin Castro] and [Darwin] Barney and [Jeff Baker]. They've had pretty good halves. If we could get the rest of this thing consistent pitching-wise and keep 'Ramy' hot, while [Carlos] Pena and Marlon [Byrd] stay hot, [we'll be OK].
"I'm really excited about the first three days back, just to get [Matt] Garza, [Carlos Zambrano] and [Ryan Dempster] out of the chute to see if we can kick off the second half well."
Ramon Ortiz (0-2), whose status is uncertain after the break, gave up five runs on seven hits over four innings. He was pulled after Neil Walker tripled to lead off the fifth. Ortiz, 38, has been subbing for Carlos Zambrano, who is expected to be activated from the disabled list next Saturday for the Cubs' third game after the All-Star break.
"I don't have a concern about anything," Ortiz said. "My only concern is to throw the ball. I don't want to think about what could happen."
McCutchen, one of three Pirates going to Phoenix for the All-Star Game, hit a sacrifice fly in the first, a three-run homer in the third and another sacrifice fly in the fifth. Neil Walker added an RBI double in the third.
"If you play good baseball, you have a chance to win," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We played better than them today. We flat-out out-pitched them, out-fielded them and out-hit them. That gives you a chance to win."
Paul Maholm (6-9) wiped out Cubs' potential rallies in the first four innings as he induced double plays in each frame. The left-hander struck out eight and gave up three hits over 7 2/3 innings. When he exited, he was greeted by a standing ovation from the crowd of 31,428 at PNC Park.
"We ran a lineup out there today that has outstanding numbers against him, stupid numbers against him, and he did a nice job," Quade said of Maholm.
In the Chicago fourth, Reed Johnson doubled, moved up on Castro's single and scored when Ramirez hit into a force at second. That would be all the offense on this day.
The Cubs did not have a starting pitcher go into the seventh inning on this 2-5 road trip. They head into the break at 37-55 -- good enough for fifth place in the National League Central -- and with an overworked bullpen.
"I know it's been tough," Quade said. "It's a good three days off for the bullpen, for sure."
The 37 wins at the break are the team's fewest since 2006 (34 wins). Last year, Chicago was 39-50 at the halfway point. What do they need to do starting Thursday?
"Just win series," Alfonso Soriano said. "We have to win two out of three. It's easy to say, but we have to play better."
There should be no lingering ill feelings after the dust-up between Quade and Ryan Dempster in the dugout on Saturday.
"I think I like it, the attitude Dempster has," Soriano said. "He wants to be out there, he wants to pitch. That's a fiery pitcher. He likes to pitch nine innings and he felt good to pitch. It's good. We'll see what happens in the second half."
Quade and shortstop Castro will now head to Phoenix to take part in Tuesday's All-Star Game. Ramirez received an invitation to be on the National League team on Sunday, but he already had made plans to go to the Dominican Republic to be with his family.
"We can use a break," Ramirez said. "Everybody knows about our bullpen situation, they've been pitching a lot. Hopefully, we come back in the second half with a fresh mind and are ready to go."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.