Castillo can't contain bottom of Tigers' lineup

August 1st, 2020

Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo had his tough changeup and he had plenty of octane on his fastball. But that was not stopping the bottom portion of the Tigers' lineup on Friday as it picked apart Castillo during a 7-2 Reds loss to Detroit at Comerica Park.

Expected to be a big contender after offseason upgrades, Cincinnati is off to a 2-5 start in an abbreviated 2020 season. Three of those losses came against the Tigers, a 114-loss team in '19.

“You know, it feels a little bit strange,” Castillo said of the team's record via translator Jorge Merlos. “You know it's obviously a short season, it's 60 games, there's little time, but since it's the beginning of the season, I know this team can come back and really fight for some wins.”

Castillo pitched six-plus innings and allowed five earned runs, eight hits and one walk while striking out six. Five of his strikeouts came via the nasty changeup and Jonathan Schoop was fanned on a 98.5-mph fastball in the first inning.

Detroit felt fortunate to have success against someone who overpowered it less than a week earlier. At Great American Ball Park last Saturday, Castillo dominated with one earned run allowed over six innings with 11 strikeouts.

"When you're facing their starter, it's never going to be easy,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I mean, that guy's unbelievable. What an arm. What an array of pitches that he's got. It makes it really hard on you. What you try to do is just hang in there as long as you possibly can."

It was the bottom three of the Tigers’ order that did most of the damage against Castillo. Christin Stewart, Austin Romine and JaCoby Jones combined to go 6-for-10 with three RBIs and three runs scored.

“My sinker, my changeup, my fastball were all working well and what happened was, when people weren't on base was when they hit me and eventually they got the clutch hits afterwards. It just kind of happens,” Castillo said.

All three of Cincinnati’s hits in the game came when it took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth inning against Spencer Turnbull. Nick Castellanos led off with a double to left-center field and scored on Nick Senzel’s RBI double to left field. A two-out RBI single to left field by Tucker Barnhart provided Castillo with a one-run lead.

The lead was erased in the bottom of the fifth. Stewart hit a 97.2-mph fastball for a ground-rule double and scored when Romine doubled to left field against a changeup. Against a 98.1-mph sinker, Jones lined an RBI single to center field and the Tigers had the lead for good.

"For me, I was kind of excited that I got to face him again,” Stewart said. “He had my number over there when we played him at the Reds' place. I got him a couple times tonight, so I was excited and we got the win. Just the whole team, our approach this time facing him was just a lot better. We weren't chasing as much out of the zone. Everyone just stuck to their approach."

Castillo faced three batters in the seventh inning, but gave up three straight singles. Second baseman Mike Moustakas knocked down a Victor Reyes grounder, but had no play at first base. Stewart followed by hitting a changeup for a single to center field. Even with two on and no outs, Reds manager David Bell stayed with his starter.

Romine followed and fought off a 98.2-mph fastball for an opposite-field RBI single to right field, prompting Bell to remove Castillo. It became a 5-2 game when reliever Nate Jones’ wild pitch scored another run.

“He’s human, and he fatigues, no question. But we learned last year, we’re in situations where he’s late in his outing and he has runners out there, he’s just gifted with the stuff and the competitive nature to pitch himself out of innings, even late in the game,” Bell said of Castillo. “It didn’t work out, but man, I would give him that opportunity pretty much every time, as long as he’s throwing the ball like he is and still has the stuff. I know it didn’t work out, but we feel good about having him pitch that inning there.”