Castro continues second-half renaissance

Marlins veteran ties career high with 21st homer among three hits

September 21st, 2019

MIAMI -- Marlins Park, in its eighth season, is not known for being home run-friendly. But the long ball played a big factor on Friday night in the Nationals’ 6-4 win over the Marlins.

Trea Turner belted two home runs, including No. 1,000 at the retractable-roof building since it opened in 2012. Asdrúbal Cabrera belted a three-run homer for Washington. Miami's countered with a home run and three hits and remained arguably the club’s best player since the All-Star break.

Castro went deep off Aníbal Sánchez with a solo shot in the fourth inning. It was his 21st, matching his personal season high set with the Yankees in 2016. The 29-year-old also has 80 RBIs, a personal best.

"He's been a manager's dream,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You wouldn't think about not playing him. And he doesn't want to not play, ever. He's just a guy who has been consistent and has gotten better as the season has gone on. There were some rough patches early, but he's been on a pretty good roll.”

Despite Castro’s heroics, the Marlins reached a dubious benchmark, falling to 53-100. It marks the third time in club history they’ve lost as many as 100 games, previously doing so in 2013 (62-100) and 1998 (54-108).

“One hundred is a bad number,” Mattingly said. “It's one of those things you don't really ever want to get to. But sometimes the road where we're wanting to go is a little bumpy. It feels a little bumpy at times, but I'm proud of the way the guys are playing."

Even in a down year, the organization remains committed to its long-term plan, and to Mattingly as its manager. On Friday afternoon, the club announced that Mattingly has signed a two-year extension with a mutual option for 2022.

On a youthful squad, Castro has been a leader by example and performance, especially in the second half.

“I started really slow this season,” Castro said. “Like I always say, you can't do your season in two months. That's what I'm doing now. I'm feeling good at the plate, and driving the ball more.”

After going 3-for-4, Castro raised his average to .271. He was at .245 with a .272 on-base percentage in the first half.

“I think the power has been there,” Mattingly said. “It's just a matter of where he is getting his better swing off. He's getting pitches to hit. He's never going to be a guy who walks a ton, but you still have to be able to control the strike zone.”

Advanced analytics shed some light on Castro’s strong second half. Entering the game, his average exit velocity on all balls in play was 88.6 mph, according to Statcast, with an expected batting average (xBA) of .295. In the first half, it was 86.77 mph with a .247 xBA.

“I'm trying to finish strong,” Castro said. “I feel good at the plate, and things are finishing the right way.”