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Castro comes up big at plate and in field

CHICAGO -- Maybe it's the extra hitting sessions with Manny Ramirez, or the good luck plastic bucket he wore on his head postgame, but Starlin Castro is finding his groove.

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For the second straight game and third time this season, Castro delivered a walk-off hit, smacking an RBI single with one out in the 11th inning to lift the Cubs to a 2-1 victory over the Reds on Sunday night. According to Elias, he's the first Cubs player to do so in back-to-back games since Hall of Famer Ron Santo in 1966.

"He's started to get his mojo back, which is good for us," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Castro went 3-for-5 in the game, and now has six career walk-off hits. The shortstop is a three-time National League All-Star, but he's also only 25 years old and still developing.

"Because he's been around awhile, people may pick on him a little more, because they expect more out of him," Maddon said. "He's still learning.

"It's not like he thinks he knows it all -- believe me, he does not come across that way one bit," Maddon said. "He's going to keep getting better. He's an easy target, he's got a big target on his back, but he's going to get better."

Ramirez, hired as a hitting consultant, has spent a lot of time with Castro in the last few days. Something's working, as the shortstop is 11-for-36 (.306) in his last eight games.

Castro, who has had to deal with high expectations since signing a seven-year contract in 2012, also contributed in the field. He was part of two key relay throws -- throwing out Brandon Phillips at home in the sixth, and handling a relay after Todd Frazier doubled with one out in the ninth.

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Because the Cubs got the ball in so quickly in the ninth, it froze Joey Votto, who was on first. He did reach third, but the Reds left the bases loaded that inning.

Maddon was more excited about the defense than the game-winning hit.

"Everybody digs the long ball, you know, but what won the game tonight was great execution of fundamentals by our guys," he said. "Simply, cutoffs and relays, tag plays at the plate, just an all-out effort. Talking about the will to win, we demonstrated that tonight."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.
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