Rapid Reaction: Cubs 7, Pirates 4

CHICAGO -- The Cubs downed the Pirates 7-4 on Friday for their sixth victory in their last seven games, going back to last week’s three-game set at Pittsburgh.

HOW IT HAPPENED: Starlin Castro crushed a three-run home run in the sixth inning to give the Cubs some breathing room and finished the day with four RBIs. The Pirates had been making a rally before Castro went deep one pitch after Alfonso Soriano was hit in the back of the left leg. Cubs starter Chris Rusin gave up two runs over five innings. The Pirates used eight pitchers.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Cubs might be rallying around the goal to not lose 100 games, but they have also done a solid job of being a spoiler to the Pirates’ playoff chances. The Cubs have defeated the wild-card contending Pirates four consecutive times this month.

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Darwin Barney isn’t just doing his streaking on defense. The second baseman, who has now gone 129 consecutive games without an error, extended his hitting streak to a career-high nine games. The first eight games of Barney’s hit streak came on the road, where he is a .215 hitter. He entered Friday’s game with a .305 batting average at Wrigley Field.

OFF BEAT: Jeff Samardzija’s vacated rotation spot will come up Saturday, the first time it has arrived since he was shut down for the remainder of the season as a wear-and-tear precaution. Club president Theo Epstein was asked if Samardzija could talk his way into another outing. “No, but it will be interesting to see if he talks his way into a pinch-hitting appearance or not,” Epstein said. “But the rotation, definitely not.”

UP NEXT: The Cubs will send right-hander Jason Berken (0-0, 0.00 ERA) to the mound Saturday to make his debut with the club. Berken was claimed off waivers from the Orioles last week. The Pirates will counter with left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (10-13, 3.72) in the 12:05 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.