Castillo on his '21: 'It's about how you finish'

Right-hander wraps up season with a 2.73 ERA from June on

October 2nd, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- A relentlessly positive and confident person, Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo went into the offseason feeling good about his 2021 season. It was far from a perfect year, but that’s not how the veteran right-hander viewed it following a 9-2 Cincinnati loss to the Pirates on Friday at PNC Park.

“Really good. I’m happy with the results,” Castillo said via translator Jorge Merlos. “As I’ve always said, ‘It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.’ We worked all year on it. I knew we would get better at it. It was important for us, and thank God we were able to get there.”

Castillo’s final start lasted 5 1/3 innings and 94 pitches in a no-decision. He allowed one earned run and six hits with three walks and five strikeouts. As a batter, he also delivered the only hit given up by Pirates starter Wil Crowe -- a leadoff single to left field in the third inning.

Pittsburgh scored eight runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take the game. Castillo, who had been away on family emergency leave this week, was long gone before the big inning. He received hugs from catcher Tucker Barnhart and all the infielders as he left the mound with one out in the sixth inning.

“They were just giving me congrats on a great season,” Castillo said. “Obviously, with the season that we had, they just wanted to congratulate me with all the hard work that I did this year.”

In the bottom of the first inning, Castillo gave up Cole Tucker’s leadoff triple to right-center field. Tucker scored on a groundout by the next batter, Yoshi Tsutsugo. All of the remaining hits Castillo allowed were singles.

Castillo finishes the year with a 9-16 record and 3.98 ERA with 192 strikeouts in 33 starts and 187 2/3 innings. The right-hander ended Friday tied for the Major League lead in losses. But coming off a shortened 2020 season, he made every assigned start and finished just shy of his career high of 190 2/3 innings from his All-Star 2019 season.

“There’s a lot that goes into that,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It’s a huge accomplishment in any season, but maybe this season more than any.”

Castillo managed to salvage a season that began in dreadful fashion. In his first 11 starts, he was 1-8 with a 7.22 ERA before orchestrating a remarkable 180-degree turn.

Beginning on June 4, Castillo posted a 2.73 ERA over his final 22 starts. But he was often the victim of poor run support as the team went 10-12 in those games. In the 12 losses, the team scored only 29 runs -- including three straight outings where the offense produced one run.

“He is very confident on the inside and humble at the same time,” Bell said. “He just stayed with it and just believed he was going to get through it. When you’re talented and you have that outlook on life, it usually pays off. It’s just really nice to see because as talented as he is, this game is really hard. You’re going to struggle at times. It’s how you handle that. Just a great season.”

It was a 1-1 game in the bottom of the eighth when the Pirates unleashed an eight-run rally on the Reds’ bullpen. It started with a leadoff single and then a one-out single against Amir Garrett. Michael Lorenzen took over and could not retire a batter, but there was some bad luck involved.

Lorenzen got the first batter he faced, Anthony Alford, to hit a fly ball to left field. Playing the position in a game for the first time, catcher Tyler Stephenson ran in for the ball and attempted an unsuccessful sliding catch. It was ruled a single that loaded the bases.

Lorenzen threw a wild pitch to Michael Perez that scored Tsutsugo with the go-ahead run. Lorenzen walked Perez before Kevin Newman squeaked a two-run single up the middle, followed by Hoy Park hitting an RBI single to right field. Lorenzen was lifted following a Bryan Reynolds walk.

The third Reds reliever of the inning, rookie Dauri Moreta, gave up Tucker’s grand slam to right field on his very first pitch.

As he heads home for the offseason, Castillo will seek to be the same pitcher he’s been for the Reds since reaching the Major Leagues in 2017.

“Nothing really will change,” he said. “It’s just working hard on my body and making sure I have enough resistance through the rest of the year. That’s what I want to do next year, too, to go through the whole season and finish strong at the end of the year.”