Castillo (10 K's), Reds win 1st Fenway game in 47 years

Right-hander dominates over 6 scoreless with elite changeup and fastball

June 1st, 2022

BOSTON -- In his first start at Fenway -- and the Reds’ first game at the park since 2014 -- Luis Castillo commanded the night.

The right-hander struck out every batter in Boston’s lineup en route to a new season high of 10 strikeouts, powering past his previous high of six. Castillo’s six scoreless innings set the Reds up for a 2-1 win over the Red Sox in the first of a two-game set. The victory was Cincinnati's first regular-season win at Fenway Park in club history (although they have only played there six times in the regular season) and its first win at the park since Game 7 of the World Series on Oct. 22, 1975.

Castillo threw 100 pitches (59 for strikes) and gave up just one hit to earn his second win of the season. He became the first Cincinnati starter to strike out 10 while allowing one or fewer hits since Sonny Gray did so on July 29, 2020, against the Cubs.

What was working for the right-hander tonight? Everything.

Don’t change the changeup
Castillo threw his changeup 30 times, generating 14 swings and eight whiffs. It marked the third most swings and whiffs he’s had on the pitch this season. More impressively, the Red Sox came into play with a .249 team batting average (good for ninth best in the Majors) against changeups this year, and the sixth best xwOBA (.323) against the pitch.

“Yeah definitely, I mean the changeup was great today,” Castillo said through interpreter Jorge Merlos. “Like I’ve said in previous interviews, you know, I’ve been trying to work on it as best as I can and as the season progresses it’ll get better, and sure enough, it did today.”

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo was the first to succumb to the pitch, going down swinging on back-to-back 89 mph changeups in the second. One inning later, Castillo got Jackie Bradley Jr. to whiff on three in a row before retiring Kiké Hernández with the changeup after three straight fastballs.

Fast and furious
Working around a Rafael Devers single in the first inning, Castillo shut the door on the next two Boston sluggers, using 12 pitches to strike out J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts on his fastball. The pitch generated 23 swings and 10 whiffs for Castillo Tuesday night, the most swings and misses he’s had on his fastball this season. 

“Wow. Yeah, against that lineup, Luis set the tone, obviously. Great fastball,” manager David Bell said. “Maybe the best fastball of the year, locating it. Definitely a good changeup and slider to go with it. I thought he really did it with his fastball. The velocity was definitely there. Located it well right from the beginning and as strong of an outing as he's had in a long time, and that's saying a lot.”

Having started the season on the injured list with right shoulder soreness, Castillo has been easing his ramp-up with each start. Tonight, his fastball averaged 96.4 mph (up from his season average of 95.8) and topped out at 98.3.

“Obviously, at the beginning of the year I was hurt, and as we get into the season, you’re kind of trying to not use [the shoulder] as much as possible or use it at its full potential,” Castillo said. “But as the season progresses, you’re able to build confidence in your arm, and you’re able to put out the miles per hour that you want to.”

Calm, cool and collecting outs
After cruising through the first five innings, Castillo ran into his only trouble of the night in the sixth. Castillo threw eight straight balls, walking No. 9 hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. and Hernández back to back. 

“Yeah, you know, the previous inning was a little bit longer than normal and [I] couldn’t find myself at the beginning on the mound,” Castillo said. “So after [those] two walks, we got the double play and were able to get out of the inning afterwards.”

With just one run on the board to support Castillo, the right-hander remained calm and induced a Devers ground-ball double play before striking out Martinez with his slider to escape the inning unscathed. 

“Eight straight balls and then to come back, get a double-play ball and almost make it look easy getting out of that,” Bell said. “He's one of the few pitchers in the league that can do that at that point in the game. 

“... It's because of the movement on his pitches. He never loses his confidence. He's one pitch away. And sure enough. He got the ground-ball double play and made it a lot easier after that. Definitely had a feeling that he was going to find a way to get through.”