'It was time': Castillo earns 1st W in 2 months

June 5th, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- On Friday evening, there was no need to search for a silver lining out of a performance. The whole of Castillo’s start was sterling and his long-awaited second win was deserved during a 6-4 Reds victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

Castillo pitched six innings with one earned run and three hits allowed while he walked one and struck out five. The only blemish was an Edmundo Sosa home run for St. Louis in the bottom of the fifth inning.

“It was time. What more can I say? It was time,” Castillo said via translator Jorge Merlos. “I’m glad that we were able to break the ice today and finally get that W.”

It was Castillo’s first win since April 7 vs. the Pirates. He had been 0-7 with a 7.29 ERA in his last nine starts while losing each of the previous seven.

Getting six innings from Castillo -- also a first since April 7 -- was pivotal as the Reds snagged back-to-back wins to begin the four-game series with the Cardinals. Manager David Bell had used his two best relievers -- Tejay Antone and Lucas Sims -- over the final four scoreless innings during Thursday’s 4-2 win and wanted to avoid using them again.

The game still got hairy in the ninth, which began with a 6-1 lead. Heath Hembree and Sean Doolittle both ran into trouble as three runs scored. struck out Paul Goldschmidt, who represented the potential winning run for the Cardinals, to get his first save and preserve Castillo’s win.

“Everyone is thrilled for Luis,” Bell said. “He’s done it for the rest of the team so many times, so we’ve stayed with him and believed in him and all his teammates love him. Going out and pitching like that and getting the win was not only big to our team but really important for Luis.”

Cardinals lefty Kwang Hyun Kim came in 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA in three career starts vs. Cincinnati but he gave up three runs in the second inning. Tyler Stephenson led off the second by hitting a first-pitch home run to left field. Then with one out and one on, Jonathan India lifted a 2-1 pitch to left field for a two-run homer. India reached safely in all four of his plate appearances and scored twice.

On the mound, Castillo was consistently getting swings and weak contact from Cardinals hitters. According to Statcast, he drew 50 swings (16 whiffs) and 12 called strikes out of his 95 pitches. The average exit velocity off him was 81 mph.

The primary pitch of the night was Castillo’s sinker, which averaged 98 mph -- 1.6 mph more than his season average. Entering the night, it had not been a winning pitch for him. Hitters were batting .529 with five homers against his sinker this season after batting .263 with no homers in 2020.

“I definitely felt different today. Especially when I got into the rhythm of the game, I was able to make right adjustments throughout the time and I felt pretty good as the game went on, too,” Castillo said. “I think I came in today saying, ‘You know what, I have to throw more fastballs today.’ It felt really good. Obviously, it led to the changeup and the rest of the repertoire, but it did help mixing in the rest of the pitches that I had today.”

After the Sosa homer on a first-pitch changeup in the bottom of the fifth, Castillo got the run back himself. Batting in the top of the sixth, he slugged a two-out RBI double to the base of the center field wall that scored an insurance run.

Following a Goldschmidt one-out single in the bottom of the sixth, Castillo was able to hold St. Louis down. With two outs, the right-hander went into a 3-0 count against Yadier Molina before coming back with four-straight strikes. His final pitch was his hardest of the game -- a 99.1 mph sinker that broke Molina’s bat and resulted in a soft pop-out to India near second base.

“If I’m just going to be soft in that at-bat, they’re going to pounce on me,” Castillo said. “I had to grab all the strength that I had and deliver the best pitch that I can. That’s what I did. Obviously, he’s a great player.”

The Reds have won four of their last five games to improve to 26-29, 3 1/2 games behind third-place St. Louis (31-27) in the National League Central. Cincinnati is trying to remain relevant in the race and will need Castillo to continue stepping up.

Castillo is now 2-8 with a 6.63 ERA in 12 starts. The Reds hope he can build from this night.

“This is baseball, baseball is a tough sport. You’re going to go through tough times with his game,” India said. “The one thing I notice with him, he never gets down. He’s always smiling. He’s always got a positive attitude. That’s why he’s coming out of it. That’s why he’s doing what he’s doing. He was electric out there.”