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Castro, Barney nifty 1-2 punch


The Cubs have been able to count on innings but not much else consistently in eight starts from their trio of aces: Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza:

W/L IP ER BB/K Result

Wedn., Zambrano at Hou XX 5 2/3 5 3/4 XXXX

Monday, Dempster at Hou W 6 1/3 4 3/9 W, 5-4

Saturday, Garza at Mil L 5 2/3 5 3/8 L, 6-0

Friday, Zambrano at Mil W 6 4 3/5 W, 7-4

April 6, Dempster vs. Az L 7 4 0/6 L, 6-4

April 3, Garza vs. Pit ND 7 3* 0/12 L, 5-4

April 2, Zambrano vs. Pit ND 6 3* 3/4 W, 5-3

April 1, Dempster vs. Pit L 6 2/3 6 4/7 L, 6-3

EIGHT-START TOTALS X-X 50 1/3 34 19/55 6.08 ERA

*-Only quality starts by trio.

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

HOUSTON — Don’t be surprised if the new-look, new-era top of the Cubs’ order takes on a longer-lasting look.

Manager Mike Quade said he’s keeping that option in mind as he gave the 1-2 lineup tandem of Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney an extra day at the top Wednesday by moving platoon leadoff man Jeff Baker down to fifth against left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.

‘‘I would love that,’’ he said. ‘‘I like the two kids at the top. They’re having fun. They’re playing well. If they happen to set the table, it’s pretty good behind them.’’

Wednesday was the fourth time the pair has been 1-2 in the Cubs’ lineup. Even before Castro’s pair of hits in his first four at-bats Wednesday and Barney’s single and walk in his first four trips, the duo was 11-for-25 (.440) with three walks and six runs combined in their three previous pairings.

‘‘We’ve been talking about mixing and matching and doing this and that,’’ Quade said. ‘‘And I’ve been thrilled with [Kosuke Fukudome’s] job in the 1 spot. But to have these two kids playing this well .  .  . if they can handle that, and to have Fuke as another option — you can never have enough options.’’

For now, Quade says he doesn’t feel he has the luxury of committing an every-day guy to very many spots in his order.

‘‘But a bunch of guys play a certain way, and, yeah, I do,’’ he said. ‘‘This is the way we’re going, and if we’re successful, this is the way we’re going to continue to go.’’

Pena concerns

Quade admitted concern about first baseman Carlos Pena’s sore thumb on his glove hand.

‘‘A little,’’ said Quade, who spelled Pena against the left-hander Wednesday, giving him two days off before Friday’s series opener in Colorado. ‘‘He said he felt OK swinging the bat. But I don’t think it’s exactly the way he’d like it. Hopefully, these couple of days will help that.’’

Meanwhile, Pena (.185 without a homer) has been provided a plastic guard to wear over the thumb inside his glove — to keep the constant pounding of throws to first from continually aggravating the injury.

Pena hurt the thumb Monday of last week when he used his glove hand to brace himself while falling on a play in the field.

Fukudome update

Fukudome increased his workload and appeared to show improvement with the hamstring he injured Sunday, but he’s still questionable for a return to the lineup Friday in Colorado.

Whether the disabled list becomes a possibility in the next few days, ‘‘I’m praying it’s not,’’ Quade said. ‘‘But right now I’m optimistic it’s not.’’


Carlos Zambrano’s solo home run in the sixth inning — off the cinder wall below the train in left-center — was the 22nd of his career, extending his franchise record for a pitcher.

It was his fifth at Minute Maid Park.

Marlon Byrd’s nine-game hitting streak ended. He batted .459 (17-for-57) in that stretch.

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