The third baseman homered for the second straight game and drove in four runs as major league-leading Atlanta beat Chicago 9-5 Friday for its first eight-game win streak since May 2000.
In two games against the Cubs, Castilla is 6-for-8 with two home runs and eight RBIs, hitting safely in six straight at-bats before grounding out in the sixth inning Friday.
“I’m feeling good now at the plate,” Castilla said. “I would love to stay like that for the rest of the season. Hopefully, I can continue to swing the bat like I’m doing right now.”
Castilla homered, doubled twice, scored three runs and drove in four on Thursday in the Braves’ 13-3 rout in the opener of the four-game series. He is now hitting .324 with 23 homers, 68 RBIs and 66 runs in 96 career games against the Cubs.
The game’s outcome was overshadowed by a scary moment in the second when Braves second baseman Marcus Giles collided violently with Cubs starter Mark Prior, sending both players to the ground wincing in pain.
After laying on the ground for a couple of minutes, a wobbly Giles walked off the field and was replaced by Mark DeRosa. Giles was taken to a hospital with a mild concussion, but was released shortly after the game.
Rookie Horacio Ramirez will try to keep the Braves’ streak going as he tries for his eighth straight win. Since starting the season 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in his first three starts, the left-hander is 7-0 with a 2.91 ERA in his last 12.
Ramirez shut down the New York Mets on Monday, limiting them to one earned run while pitching a four-hitter as the Braves won 7-3.
“It was probably the best game I’ve thrown this year,” said Ramirez, who said he’d never thrown a complete game at any professional level.
The Cubs will counter with Matt Clement, who has pitched well his last three starts, but has just one win to show for it. Since giving up seven runs and 11 hits over 3 1-3 innings in a 7-6 loss to the White Sox on June 21, Clement has given up six runs and 11 hits in 21 innings spanning three outings.
STANDINGS: Braves - 1st place, NL East. Cubs - 3rd place, 3 GB, NL Central.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Ramirez (8-2, 3.49 ERA). Ramirez will be making his first career appearance against the Cubs.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Clement (6-7, 4.56 ERA). The 28-year-old right-hander is 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA in eight career starts against the Braves.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Braves - Gary Sheffield, .332 avg., 70 RBIs and 72 runs; Javy Lopez and Andruw Jones, 23 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 14 SBs. Cubs - Sosa, .307 avg., 17 HRs and 51 runs; Moises Alou, 56 RBIs; Tom Goodwin, 18 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Braves, 2-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Braves - RF Sheffield sat out of Friday’s game due to a swollen thumb. … CF Andruw Jones is 5-for-18 with three homers and eight RBIs against RHP Clement. … LF Chipper Jones is also 5-for-18 against Clement, with three doubles and a homer. Cubs - 1B Karros’ run-scoring single in the first inning Friday gave him 997 RBIs for his career. … RHP Prior stayed in the game after his collision with Braves 2B Giles, though he said his right shoulder stiffened up on him after an inning. He will have his shoulder re-examined Saturday. … RF Sosa is 30-for-89 (.337) with 11 homers and 21 RBIs since his suspension for using a corked bat.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Braves - 30-18 on the road; Cubs - 23-24 at home.