Rapid Reaction: Cubs 2, Pirates 0

PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Samardzija had his best outing in a Chicago Cubs uniform Monday and Alfonso Soriano drove in two runs in a 2-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

How it happened: Samardzija was brilliant, giving up only an infield single over eight innings. The Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen had the only hit off Samardzija in the fourth inning. The Pirates had been red hot entering the game while on a season-best five-game winning streak. The Pirates’ 97 runs in July were second best in all of baseball to the Tigers’ 100. Since May 25, the Pirates had gone a major league best 34-16 entering play Monday. Carlos Marmol closed it out for his 12th save, also giving up an infield single in the two-hitter.

What it means: Starlin Castro got a first-hand look at just how important walks can be. He received a free pass to open the fourth inning and the scored the first run of the game from first base on a double to right-center field from Soriano. Castro has never walked much, but his walk totals have been up slightly of late. He has five this month and nine since June 25. Before June 25 he had just six. Castro scored again in the ninth inning on another Soriano double after he singled to center.

Outside the box: When the Cubs scored in the fourth inning it snapped a 28-inning scoreless drought going back to Friday’s game at St. Louis when they brought home a run in the second inning. The 28 innings was the longest the Cubs went without a run since May 3-6 in 2006. That time period was also the last time the Cubs were shut out in consecutive games like they were Saturday and Sunday against the Cardinals.

Off beat: Most of this season, a dramatic shift of defenders on the infield has helped the Cubs. It happened to cause confusion Monday. The Pirates had yet to collect their first hit when McCutchen grounded a ball to the right side. With second baseman Darwin Barney playing nearly up the middle, Anthony Rizzo moved to his right to field the ball. Samardzija didn’t react promptly, obviously thinking the ball was hit to second base. McCutchen ended up beating Samardzija to the bag for the first Pirates hit of the game.

Up next: The Cubs will send left-hander Paul Maholm (8-6, 4.09 ERA) to the mound Tuesday at Pittsburgh in the middle game of the three-game series. The Pirates will counter with right-hander James McDonald (10-3, 2.93) in the 6:05 p.m. CST start from PNC Park.