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Cubs’ Darwin Barney having better at-bats

DarwBarney who went 0-for-5 Friday against HoustAstros had been hot late. | Brian Kersey~AP

Darwin Barney, who went 0-for-5 on Friday against the Houston Astros, had been hot of late. | Brian Kersey~AP

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ASTROS AT CUBS 1:20 P.m., CSN, 720-AM

Wandy Rodriguez (11-10, 3.51 ERA) vs. Matt Garza (8-10, 3.54)

Rodriguez vs. Cubs: 5-6, 3.95

A. Ramirez: 12-for-40, HR

A. Soriano: 3-for-32, HR

G. Soto: 8-for-19, 2 HR

Garza vs. Astros: 0-2, 3.00

Carlos Lee: 2-for-9, 2 2B

Clint Barmes: 2-for-6, 2 HR

Matt Downs: 0-for-3, 3 K

The rest of the series

12:05 p.m. Saturday, Ch. 9, 720-AM: Henry Sosa (2-4, 5.02) Rodrigo Lopez (5-6, 5.04)

1:20 p.m. Sunday, CSN, 720-AM: Brett Myers (5-13, 4.52) vs. Ryan Dempster (10-12, 4.66)

Updated: November 10, 2011 11:56AM

With his first full major-league season winding down, second baseman Darwin Barney seems to have caught a second wind.

He started the season winning rookie of the month in April and hitting .296 in May but tailed off in August (.255) and September (.227). He has hit safely in five of his last seven games, however, including getting the game-tying hit Thursday in the ninth in Cincinnati.

‘‘His at-bats have been much, much better,’’ manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘We’ve tried to give him a couple of days off. I know he had a few days off at home [for the birth of his second child Sept. 7 in Portland, Ore.], although that was stressful. But maybe since they had the baby he’s feeling better.

‘‘Even his outs have been better. I’ll still look to spell him.’’

Mix and match

Quade has said he will be mixing and matching lineups in the last days of the season to see what the potential is of some of the recently promoted newcomers, while giving veterans such as Carlos Pena a chance to achieve their benchmark goals.

‘‘I’ve talked to some of the veterans and the kids, and there’s a good chance we’ll do that,’’ Quade said.

The exception might be Starlin Castro, who’s pursuing 200 hits and doesn’t appear to be tiring.

‘‘He said no, no, no [to a day off],’’ Quade said. ‘‘He’s having fun.’’

Castro went hitless Friday but walked twice to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 29 games.

Quade is playing Bryan LaHair, a first baseman, in the outfield often to see if he can handle the position, while allowing Pena to continue to play. There are fewer such opportunities for infielder DJ LeMahieu with veterans Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt also available. LeMahieu can play third, but Aramis Ramirez is likely to play most of the time.

‘‘DJ is in a tough spot because Barney has been playing real well and Rami,’’ Quade said. ‘‘He understands.’’

On the mound

The team’s last scheduled day off is Thursday before a season-ending road trip to St. Louis, which could still be in playoff contention for the National League Central title or NL wild card, and San Diego. Quade and pitching coach Mark Riggins will decide on the rotation then, weighing the possibility of giving Ryan Dempster two more starts after Sunday, when he is next scheduled.

Quade said the relief pitchers’ work has been balanced enough to have kept them fresh. Lefty Sean Marshall, who has a team-high 73 appearances, is the only reliever he’s watching more closely.

‘‘If [John] Gaub [the rookie left-hander called up last week] pitches like he did [twice striking out Joey Votto in Cincinnati], that will take some of the pressure off,’’ Quade said.’’

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