Castro sparks Friars vs. last week's mates

September 3rd, 2020

For one night, at least, all the pieces fit.

Padres general manager A.J. Preller garnered plenty of attention for the big names he acquired in his Trade Deadline binge, most notably Mike Clevinger. But Clevinger hasn’t even taken the mound yet -- he’ll do so on Thursday -- and Preller’s trade haul is already paying dividends.

On Wednesday night, it was who broke open a tie game with a two-run double against his former team. Castro, acquired to be San Diego’s backup catcher down the stretch, sparked a decisive eight-run eighth inning as the Padres sealed their third straight win, an 11-4 victory over the Angels at Angel Stadium.

Fellow newcomer reached base three times, via two walks and a hit by pitch, and had his first two Padres hits.

“We brought in plus-makeup guys, and I think our group here has received them with open arms and is treating them like brothers,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “So it's been a smooth transition.”

Castro, Allen and Moreland weren’t exactly the headliners of Preller’s six-trade spree. Perhaps that’s what makes his work so impactful. Before Monday’s Deadline, Preller addressed the Padres’ biggest needs (a frontline starter, a starting catcher, a potential closer). And he addressed the smaller ones (a backup catcher, a strong defensive outfielder, a lefty bat).

A fortnight ago, when members of the Padres’ front office met to assess the team’s Deadline needs, they came up with four areas that needed to be addressed: the rotation, bullpen, catcher and designated hitter. They addressed all four, and they didn’t skimp.

The Padres could’ve settled for Austin Nola as the solution at catcher. They got Castro, too. The Padres could’ve settled for Trevor Rosenthal as the bullpen arm they needed. They got three other relievers from Seattle, too.

“I don't think any of us looked at it and said we had to fill all those needs,” Preller said Monday. “Just, as it started lining up, ultimately we felt we had deals that helped us.”

Castro, of course, should know a thing or two about Angels pitching. He spent the first half of the season catching it before he was traded to the Padres for right-hander Gerardo Reyes.

Last Friday, In Castro’s final inning behind the plate for Los Angeles, he backstopped Ty Buttrey’s fourth save of the season. A few days later, Buttrey was on the hill when Castro strode to the plate in the eighth inning with the game tied at 3.

“There’s a little bit to it, as far as [knowing] the way he likes to work and how the ball comes out of his hand,” Castro said. “The familiarity definitely helps.”

Buttrey came inside with a fastball, and Castro ripped it right-center for a two-run double, breaking a 3-3 tie. The floodgates opened from there. Manny Machado drove in two more with a single. Eric Hosmer capped the rally with a three-run homer to straightaway center.

With two hits apiece, Machado and Hosmer did their part, but that’s no surprise. They’ve been excellent all year. More noteworthy were the contributions from the bottom of the Padres’ lineup. Jurickson Profar, Castro and Allen -- hitting 7-8-9 -- combined to reach base six times and drove in the Padres’ first five runs.

“It's the mark of a difference-making offense,” Tingler said. “... With the depth, it makes it tough on the other team's pitchers. When everyone is grinding and locked in, it's hard for them to breathe.”

Castro made things tough on his former pitching staff. He did his best to make things easy on his new one -- no small task, considering he met Wednesday’s starter Dinelson Lamet two days ago.

Lamet has been one of the breakout stars of the Padres’ season, and he was solid again on Wednesday. The right-hander surrendered a two-run homer to Mike Trout. But Lamet struck out six over 6 1/3 innings of three-run ball.

“He’s pretty special,” Castro said. “The fastball, obviously the velocity is there. His slider is one of the best sliders I think I’ve ever caught.”

Said Lamet: “I know that I had a teammate back there, and I just wanted to play my game and throw my pitches the way I needed to and not really think about the fact that it was the first time he was catching me. That’s what we were able to do.”

That’s been an early theme of the Padres’ new arrivals this week. They all seem to be fitting right in. Next up: Clevinger.