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Castillo racks up 11 K's in Reds shutout

@m_sheldon
May 11, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo was facing the Giants for the second time this week when he took the mound Friday. Having just been seen by his opponents, he and catcher Tucker Barnhart could have opted to recalibrate the game plan. But they didn’t. “For a guy

SAN FRANCISCO -- Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo was facing the Giants for the second time this week when he took the mound Friday. Having just been seen by his opponents, he and catcher Tucker Barnhart could have opted to recalibrate the game plan. But they didn’t.

“For a guy like him, no. His changeup is special. He’s got 100 [mph] in the tank,” Barnhart said. “For me personally, it doesn’t matter who he’s facing or when he’s facing them. I will take my chances with the same game plan and just run it out there and try it again.”

This time, the results were even better as Castillo gave up two hits over six innings and tied a career high with 11 strikeouts during Cincinnati’s 7-0 victory over the Giants at Oracle Park.

Box score

In his last start, a 6-5 Reds loss to San Francisco at Great American Ball Park, Castillo pitched seven innings but gave up all four runs and three of his four hits allowed during the top of the sixth to blow a 4-0 lead.

“They get to know me better, but I get to know them, too, you know what I mean?” Castillo said via translator Julio Morillo. “I did a really good job at home. I came out with a plan and I executed that plan, and everything was good.”

There is a long way to go before the All-Star Game in July, but Castillo is making his case that he deserves to be in Cleveland on July 9. With the win, he improved to 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA, third-best in the Majors.

The game started ominously for Castillo when he issued back-to-back walks to begin the first inning, as he tied a career high with five bases-on-balls.

“I think the first inning I didn’t feel comfortable there,” Castillo said. “I think my consistency wasn’t there. After that, I said ‘OK, I have to be the pitcher that I am.’”

What got Castillo back on track? His bread-and-butter pitch, of course -- the changeup.

Evan Longoria was the first victim when he struck out on a changeup that dove just above the dirt to Barnhart. Brandon Belt grounded into a fielder’s choice and Mac Williamson grounded out to end the first-inning threat.

"Everything he throws looks like he’s about to throw a fastball, so he’s pretty deceptive in that way,” Belt said. "Definitely one of the tougher guys I’ve seen."

According to Statcast, of his 103 pitches in the game, Castillo used the changeup 40 times with 15 swings-and-misses and nine of his strikeouts.

“That says it was working really, really good today,” Castillo said.

The 24 swings-and-misses he got from San Francisco hitters were a career high and tied for second-most by a Reds pitcher in a single game since pitch tracking began in 2008.

“You’ve seen it before when a guy comes out, walks a couple of guys and they can’t find it and it affects the rest of the game,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Coming right back and getting that next hitter and locking it back in, he was good the rest of the way.”

Run support came in the top of the second inning, as the Reds capitalized after left fielder Tyler Austin dropped a one-out routine fly ball from Derek Dietrich. Barnhart later sliced a two-out RBI single into left field and Nick Senzel hit a two-run triple to center field after Steven Duggar could not hold on to the ball after colliding with the wall. Eugenio Suarez added an RBI double down the left-field line.

Castillo gave up a two-out infield single to Stephen Vogt and the only other hit was Vogt’s two-out double in the fifth. Following a leadoff walk to begin the sixth, Castillo struck out the side. The first two batters, Williamson and Brandon Crawford struck out on fastballs.

Following Thursday’s 3-0 win at Oakland, the Reds have produced consecutive shutout wins on the road for the first time since 2015.

“When you have that confidence that everything is going well inning by inning, then you just say ‘OK, I have to be better than the inning before,’" Castillo said. "You have that motivation just to do better than the inning before. That’s what I’ve been doing. I think it’s been working really good for me.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.