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Padres no match for Castillo’s changeup

@oapostrophesd
April 21, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Petco Park has seen a few quality changeups in its 16 seasons. A fellow by the name of Trevor Hoffman called it home for some time. Rarely, however, have the denizens of the East Village been witness to a fastball-change combo quite like what Reds right-hander Luis

SAN DIEGO -- Petco Park has seen a few quality changeups in its 16 seasons. A fellow by the name of Trevor Hoffman called it home for some time.

Rarely, however, have the denizens of the East Village been witness to a fastball-change combo quite like what Reds right-hander Luis Castillo brought to the mound Saturday night.

Besides throwing 96- to 97-mph gas, Castillo befuddled Padres batters with his change to lead the Reds to a 4-2 victory, their third straight win after a 5-12 start to the season. The Padres, conversely, have dropped six straight games to fall back to .500, and will need a win in the series finale on Sunday to avoid a four-game home sweep.

Castillo’s pitching line was plenty good: six innings, one run, four hits, one walk, nine strikeouts and one hit batter. The eye test was even more impressive as among those nine strikeouts, six came on swinging third strikes against Castillo’s change.

Fernando Tatis Jr., Hunter Renfroe, Jose Pirela, Eric Lauer, Manny Machado and Greg Garcia all saw their lumber transformed into flyswatters by Castillo.

“He’s a special guy,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “His stuff’s extremely, extremely good. … It’s 100 with a foot of movement. That’s extremely hard to hit. Plus, there’s a changeup that looks like it hits the brakes before it gets to you.”

Machado apparently had an inkling of what the Padres were in for. Facing Machado in the first inning, Castillo followed a 96-mph fastball with an 87-mph change. Machado swung way ahead of the offspeed pitch to run the count to 2-2, and then stepped out of the box while breaking into a knowing grin.

“It’s a big part of his success, to be able to throw that pitch for a strike when he needs to and, really, to be able to throw it in any count,” Reds manager David Bell said.

The at-bat wasn’t over, but the battle was. On the next pitch, Machado tapped the ball back to Castillo on a 97-mph heater.

Perhaps Eric Hosmer had the right idea. He swung at the first fastball he saw from Castillo leading off the bottom of the second inning, one that arrived at “only” 94 mph. Hosmer launched that over the right-center-field wall for his second home run of 2019, the only damage done against Castillo.

Castillo’s performance at Petco Park was not an homage to Hoffman, the former Padres closer who rode his changeup into the Hall of Fame. It’s what the 26-year-old has been delivering all season. He already had the Major League lead for swinging strikes against the changeup, 33 entering Saturday.

Castillo’s ERA actually went up a tick to 1.47 with his Saturday numbers. Through five starts, he has struck out 41 batters in 30 2/3 innings. Perhaps the biggest number to the resurgent Reds is that he now has a “2” in the win column -- he’s the only Reds starter with multiple wins.

“There’s no limit to how good he can be,” Bell said. “He loves to pitch, and he continues to work at it.”

Here's the “scary good” part: The Reds said Castillo didn’t have his best stuff against the Padres. Indeed his fastball command wasn’t perfect, leading to a pitch count of 100 in those six innings. Pitching coach Derek Johnson even made a mound visit in the second inning when Castillo allowed a single and walk following Hosmer’s home run.

Castillo responded by striking out Pirela and Lauer on changeups, and getting Tatis Jr. to fly out to right field on a 96-mph fastball.

“I made an adjustment there to locate a bit better,” Castillo said through a translator.

Said Bell: “He just continues to mature. Even when he does get behind [in the count] and it’s not easy, he’s believing in himself and his stuff. That’s what pitching is.”

The Reds have things covered in the late innings, too.

Raisel Iglesias struck out the side in the ninth for his fourth save. He has struck out nine straight batters in the three games of this series, one inning each night. That streak comes on the heels of Iglesias allowing a walk-off home run to the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson on Monday.

“He’s feeling it, getting more and more confident,” Bell said. “The velocity’s there. The slider’s there. He’s been very good.”

Shaun O'Neill is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @oapostrophesd.