This is a big weekend for the Atlanta Braves. They will honor Bobby Cox on Friday and retire No. 6, have a Legends Game and 20-year anniversary of the 1991 worst-to-first team on Saturday, and, well, they're also in the middle of a playoff race and are playing their best baseball since the All-Star Break.
The Braves have played 118 games this season but are yet to play the Chicago Cubs. I don't quite see how that works out or happens, but it did. The Cubbies are not very good -- 51-67, 16 games back of the Brewers in the NL Central -- though they do have a few good players. Let's take a closer look at them:
A "Star" Is Born...
#13 / Short Stop / Chicago Cubs
Mar 24, 1990
|2011 - Starlin Castro||115||490||67||152||28||8||6||53||21||71||12||5||.310||.338||.437|
Chicago has not had much luck with their prospects in recent years. Starlin Castro is the exception; the 21-year old shortstop has been great this season and is his .310 batting average ranks near the top for the National League. The leadoff man could stand to walk a little bit more and he is streaky at the plate, but he puts the ball in play is the catalyst for the Cubs lineup.
Enjoy watching Starlin play this weekend. He's going to be a good one, folks.
A veteran who can still hit...
#16 / Third Base / Chicago Cubs
Jun 25, 1978
|2011 - Aramis Ramirez||110||422||56||120||28||0||21||71||23||56||0||1||.284||.330||.500|
Aramis Ramirez may have a ludicrous contract and slumping defensive skills, but the third baseman can still swing the bat. Ramirez leads his team in home runs, RBIs, and slugging percentage, and he will hit third for Chicago. For a player who has been frequently rumored to be on the trade market, he can still produce and can send a baseball a long way if a pitcher makes a mistake.
Friday, 7:35EDT - Mike Minor vs. Carlos Zambrano
|2011 - Mike Minor||1-2||7||7||0||0||0||0||39.0||45||21||21||0||17||31||4.85||1.59|
|2011 - Carlos Zambrano||9-6||24||23||0||0||0||0||141.1||146||72||70||14||56||98||4.46||1.43|
Saturday, 7:10EDT - Derek Lowe vs. Randy Wells
|2011 - Derek Lowe||7-10||25||25||0||0||0||0||139.1||153||76||74||9||53||95||4.78||1.48|
|2011 - Randy Wells||3-4||14||14||0||0||0||0||77.1||92||53||52||15||31||50||6.05||1.59|
Sunday, 1:35EDT - Brandon Beachy vs. Matt Garza
|2011 - Brandon Beachy||5-2||17||17||0||0||0||0||97.0||84||40||37||14||31||105||3.43||1.19|
|2011 - Matt Garza||5-9||22||22||1||0||0||0||134.2||127||66||57||11||48||138||3.81||1.30|
#49 / Pitcher / Chicago Cubs
Oct 14, 1982
|2011 - Carlos Marmol||2-3||56||0||0||0||26||7||55.1||44||22||22||2||34||73||3.58||1.41|
Carlos Marmol is one of the few closers in baseball who can at least be compared to Craig Kimbrel. The hard-throwing righty has electric stuff, though he does lose his command on occasion. The key to hitting him is being patient at the plate and trying to force him to make a mistake, because you don't have much of a chance if he doesn't. He and Sean Marshall give the Cubs one of the best 8th and 9th inning combinations in baseball.
This series may not be a big one as far as playoff aspirations go -- those start Monday as Atlanta prepares for the Giants and Diamondbacks -- but it is a big one in this respect: Friday night is a sellout of 55,000+, Saturday night is a near-sellout and Sunday will have at least 40,000 at Turner Field. Bobby Cox is getting his number retired, Dan Uggla is looking to make franchise history and the 20-year anniversary of the worst-to-first team of 1991 is Saturday night. It will be a big weekend in Atlanta and the Braves need to win at least two games, if not sweep.