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Castellanos leads Tigers' late charge to victory

RF posts 5th consecutive multi-hit game, boosts game-tying RBI double, scores winning run
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The last time most fans at Comerica Park had seen Bruce Rondon, he was on his last legs as a Tigers reliever, walking both batters he faced while throwing one strike in nine pitches in his final Detroit appearance last August.

The last time Nicholas Castellanos had seen his former Detroit teammate, he was mowing down Tigers hitters in Chicago on April 8, fanning all four batters he faced -- including Castellanos on a slider.

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DETROIT -- The last time most fans at Comerica Park had seen Bruce Rondon, he was on his last legs as a Tigers reliever, walking both batters he faced while throwing one strike in nine pitches in his final Detroit appearance last August.

The last time Nicholas Castellanos had seen his former Detroit teammate, he was mowing down Tigers hitters in Chicago on April 8, fanning all four batters he faced -- including Castellanos on a slider.

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So when Rondon made his return to Comerica Park on Friday, trying to protect a White Sox lead in the eighth inning, Castellanos remembered.

"He throws hard, but he likes his soft stuff," Castellanos said. "He punched me out in Chicago with the majority of soft stuff. I don't want to say that I went up there just sitting slider, but I had an idea."

The result was another Tigers comeback victory, with Castellanos' game-tying double and go-ahead run capping a three-run Tiger rally off Rondon for a 5-4 win. But the way Castellanos has been hitting lately, he has been all over everything pitchers have offered him.

Castellanos' three-hit effort marked his fifth consecutive multi-hit game. The last four have come from the second spot in the order, where he moved earlier this week.

Video: CWS@DET: Castellanos makes strong throw to nab Palka

"With everybody beat up and everything, I called Nick into my office and I talked to him about it on the road trip," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And I just said, 'Hey, I'm thinking about the two-hole. You got any problems with that?'

"Analytically, he gets more at-bats, the whole package. I've been reading about this stuff. With all these guys out, we just decided to try to do it."

Castellanos is no stranger to the spot. He batted second in 48 games last season, more than any other spot. He hit just .223 there, but with nine homers, 31 RBIs and a .729 OPS.

"[Gardenhire] called me in the office," Castellanos said, "and he was kind of hesitant with it. He gave me a whole bunch of reasons why he wanted to do it and I said, 'Gardy, man, I don't really care where I hit, as long as I get to hit.'"

Considering he's batting .368 (28-for-76) in May, Castellanos' success began before the move.

"Right now, I'm getting strikes," he said, "and I'm doing a good job of not missing. When I get in trouble is when I get too anxious, but right now I'm doing a good job of laying off pitches out of the zone."

Castellanos' success this week bumped Jeimer Candelario to the third spot, where the switch-hitting third baseman returned from the disabled list Friday to drive home Castellanos on a blooper behind first base for the go-ahead run.

The Tigers have won five times this season when trailing after seven innings. The White Sox had a 3-0 lead midway through the fourth inning, and a 4-2 advantage following seven strong innings from starter Reynaldo Lopez.

Jose Iglesias' leadoff double down the left-field line led off the rally. Rondon (2-3) fanned JaCoby Jones but left a slider up to Leonys Martin, whose liner into right field plated Iglesias and put the tying run on base.

Video: CWS@DET: Martin lines an RBI single into right field

Rondon went back to the slider against Castellanos, who missed the first but drilled the second to the left-field wall. Third-base coach Dave Clark waved home Martin, who slid around catcher Omar Narvaez's tag attempt as Castellanos took third.

Candelario's blooper traveled just 137 feet, just far enough to elude Jose Abreu's over-the-shoulder attempt as Castellanos took off.

"Off the bat, it looked like a routine fly ball," Castellanos said. "But [Abreu] was playing so far in. It was a tough play."

Video: CWS@DET: Candelario gives Tigers lead with RBI single

Buck Farmer (1-3) retired the White Sox in order in the top of the eighth to earn the win, part of 3 1/3 scoreless innings from the Tigers' bullpen in relief of Mike Fiers. Shane Greene overcame a leadoff single in the ninth for his 12th save.

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
White Sox offense Stumpfed: Daniel Stumpf did not get a decision from Friday's win, but his two outs in the seventh inning stranded two potential White Sox add-on runs and kept the Tigers close enough for their rally, not to mention helped kick his recent struggles. The lefty replaced Warwick Saupold with runners on first and second and one out, but spotted a fastball at the belt to Narvaez for a called third strike before overpowering Adam Engel for a popout back to him.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Castellanos had one of his better defensive performances in right field, throwing out Daniel Palka trying to stretch a fifth-inning double on a drive off the right-field wall before leaning into the seats down the right-field line for a ball in the sixth. On the latter, he received instant feedback from a fan he nearly knocked over, who high-fived him after he made the catch.

Video: CWS@DET: Castellanos makes super catch near railing

"The first words out of my mouth were, 'Oh crap,'" Castellanos said, "because I knocked his beer everywhere, all over him and his wife or his girlfriend. He said, 'Well, did you at least catch it?' And I was like, yeah. And then he said, 'Yeah!' And then we high-fived. It was pretty cool, man."

HE SAID IT
"If you're a fan in right field, we're going to have fun." -- Castellanos, on his cheering section that has developed in the right-field seats

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Clark's wave home on Martin was a test for both White Sox left fielder Charlie Tilson and for Martin, who returned a week ago from a strained left hamstring. The relay home was close enough that White Sox manager Rick Renteria challenged the safe call, arguing Narvaez might have swiped Martin in the back before he touched home plate. Replay officials could not definitely determine that, so after a 1:36 review, the safe call stood.

Video: CWS@DET: Castellanos doubles in Martin, call stands

UP NEXT
Francisco Liriano (3-1, 3.42 ERA) will start against the White Sox, one of his former teams, for the first time in three years Saturday as the three-game series continues with a 4:10 p.m. ET game at Comerica Park. Liriano tossed eight scoreless innings on two hits with 12 strikeouts against the South Siders in 2015, then tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief against them last year. Chicago will counter with Hector Santiago (0-2, 5.17).

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

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