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Randy Wells labors in 1st start as Cubs routed 10-0 by Pirates

Alfonso Soriano has support his teammates even though fans can’t sthis sad outfield play. | AP PHOTO

Alfonso Soriano has the support of his teammates, even though the fans can’t stand his sad outfield play. | AP PHOTO

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Updated: July 7, 2011 2:56PM

Seeing Randy Wells on the mound Saturday at Wrigley Field in his first start since April 4 was a sight for manager Mike Quade’s sore eyes.

And if keeping Wells healthy is the goal, the Cubs might eventually be able to overlook their 10-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the right-hander’s less-than-ideal four innings.

‘‘He wasn’t as sharp as I’m sure he would have liked,’’ Quade said. ‘‘He just wasn’t consistent, was getting balls up a little more than normal. But he said he felt good [afterward], and that was the most important thing. We’ll get his arm strength back, and he’ll be back in five days.’’

Wells labored through three innings but still got results, striking out four and giving up a hit and two walks. He fell apart in the fourth ­inning, giving up a three-run homer to shortstop Ronny Cedeno.

‘‘I don’t know if I was just anxious to get back out there,’’ said Wells (1-1), who recovered from a strained forearm. ‘‘The big thing was the counts. I nibbled instead of cutting loose and going after guys and buried myself. I got behind a lot of hitters and got the pitch count up.’’

Wells threw 92 pitches and had seven strikeouts in four innings. In two minor-league rehab assignments, he gave up seven runs in 72/3 innings. But Wells and the Cubs ­believed he was ready, especially with the rotation in need of help.

‘‘We saw him be so good in spring and in his first outing [one run through six innings],’’ Quade said. ‘‘He’s not going to automatically start dealing again. We’ll see him again in five days.’’

Pirates left-hander Paul Maholm (2-7) had his best start of the season, pitching his fifth career complete game and third shutout. The Cubs managed only three hits, singles by Lou Montanez and Darwin Barney and a double by Alfonso Soriano, who extended his hitting streak to nine games. Barney’s single was a dribbler in the ninth and the Cubs’ first hit since the fifth, when Soriano and Montanez reached base.

‘‘In and out, changing speeds — he was good,’’ Quade said.

Despite a 49-66 career record, Maholm improved to 8-2 lifetime against the Cubs in notching his first complete game victory on the road.

‘‘He attacked and attacked,’’ Wells said. ‘‘And when we started attacking him, he went out of the [strike] zone. That’s how you have to do it. For the most part, I attacked, but in a timid way.

‘‘I felt I was rushing, jumping at the plate. The emotions were high. You try to calm yourself down. I’m happy to be back. Having a pitch count get up there wasn’t what I planned to do, but you learn from everything and try to take positives from it. You try to take positives from every experience. With the lack of pitching for the last few months, I think next time I’ll be better.’’

Wells’ four innings meant another long day for the bullpen, with James Russell (two innings, home runs by Lyle Overbay and Chris Snyder), Scott Maine (two innings, two-run homer to Andrew McCutchen) and John Grabow (one inning, one run) finishing the game.

It was the second consecutive day of work for Maine and Grabow. Russell worked 32/3 innings Wednesday in his return to the bullpen from the rotation.

‘‘Russell’s been a warrior for us in different roles,’’ Quade said. ‘‘He said he felt fantastic, but I’ll start watching him a little more.’’

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