SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Starlin Castro was one of the NL’s top rookies last season. Now, the All-Star shortstop is one of the league’s best players period.
Castro and Marlon Byrd had Chicago’s only hits as the Cubs lost 4-0 to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday.
Castro collected a two-out single in the third inning for his National League-best 173rd hit of the season. He stole second and went to third on catcher Chris Stewart’s throwing error, but was stranded there when Reed Johnson lined out to second.
Castro felt a tug in his hamstring sliding into third but remained in the game and is expected to be fine. He is trying to become the first Cub to lead the league in hits since Juan Pierre in 2006.
“As long as I keep playing I have a chance,” Castro said. “I can’t do anything on the bench. I don’t want to come out. I want to finish strong in the last month.”
Last season Castro became the first Cubs rookie to hit .300 and finish in the league’s top 10 in batting since Bill Madlock in 1974. This year he has established himself as a consistent threat. He’s hit safely in 26 of his past 29 games.
Rodrigo Lopez (4-6) allowed four runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings for the Cubs. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.94 ERA in his last three starts.
“I’ve seen him better,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “He was OK.”
Lopez also fell to 0-5 with a 6.37 ERA in eight career starts against San Francisco.
“I wasn’t executing my pitches well enough,” Lopez said. “I was using my body more than my arm and the ball was staying up. I got punished for it.”
Dazzling while winning his second straight start, Bumgarner matched his career high with 11 strikeouts in eight innings. Manager Bruce Bochy stuck with him after a one-out walk to Geovany Soto in the eighth and Bumgarner got out of it.
Sergio Romo finished the Giants’ 11th shutout with a 1-2-3 ninth that included a strikeout.
Jeff Keppinger drove the first pitch he saw from Lopez into the left-field seats leading off the fourth for his team’s first lead in the series. Pablo Sandoval then splashed a shot into McCovey Cove beyond the right-field arcade — right to the eager kayakers who had been waiting to retrieve a rare souvenir in the bay of late.
Lopez has allowed two of Sandoval’s splash homers. The first came in 2009 when the right-hander was with Philadelphia.
The Giants avoided being swept by the Cubs for the first time since May 20-22, 1994, and in San Francisco since Sept. 13-15, 1993, at Candlestick Park.
Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano, who hit solo home runs in each of the first two games and had homered in four of his previous seven overall, went 0 for 2 with a walk and a strikeout.
Stewart added an RBI double as the Giants’ bats produced enough support for Bumgarner after Chicago had outscored San Francisco 12-2 in the first two games.
NOTES: San Francisco is 11-14 at home since the All-Star break. … Quade is keeping his rotation in order even with Thursday’s off day. … San Francisco lined up its rotation to have its three best pitchers going against the Diamondbacks, starting with 10-game winner Matt Cain on Friday night for his fifth 2011 start vs. Arizona. … The Cubs, who had their first winning month (16-13) since going 19-10 last September/October, return home to host Pittsburgh for a weekend series starting Friday. RHP Ryan Dempster (10-10) takes the mound after losing his last two starts.
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