Rocky 1st frame at Coors ominous for Castillo

Bell deems righty 'too talented' for struggles to continue

May 14th, 2021

In order to give Wade Miley an extra day of rest following his no-hitter last week, the Reds moved up Luis Castillo to face the Rockies on Thursday. The switch was also motivated by a desire to keep Castillo on his normal four days’ rest and maintain his regular pitching flow.

But absolutely nothing flowed the right way for Castillo as he slogged through another rough performance during a 13-8 Reds loss to Colorado at Coors Field. While tying a career high with eight earned runs allowed, he set a new career high by giving up 10 hits. It all came in the span of only 3 2/3 innings.

"It just seems like in situations where you're struggling or things aren't going your way, it continues to snowball. We've got to just keep punching out of it," Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said.

Castillo rarely shows frustration on the mound or behind the scenes, but it was clear that he felt some this time.

"To me, it looked like he was kind of battling himself a little bit. But we had a mound visit there … I got him to smile," Barnhart said. "Obviously in times like that, it's hard to do it -- it's hard to keep going, really. I just asked him, 'Are you having fun?' We all play this game to have fun. Because it is fun. He smiled.”

Over eight starts this year, Castillo is 1-5 with a 7.71 ERA. The Reds have lost seven of the games that he has started -- including six in a row. But the lineup did its best to pick him up.

It was a 10-0 deficit before the Reds put together an eight-run rally in the top of the eighth inning while sending 11 to the plate. With Rockies starter Chi Chi González done after seven scoreless innings, Cincinnati pummeled three relievers -- including former teammate Robert Stephenson.

Pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson slugged a two-run home run to right field against Lucas Gilbreath. Stephenson faced five batters and notched just one out while giving up four runs. After RBI hits by Barnhart and Kyle Farmer, reliever Mychal Givens surrendered Jonathan India's three-run homer to right field. However, Colorado bounced back with three runs in the bottom of the eighth -- including a throwing error by India that led to two runs.

"It could’ve been an incredible comeback if we would have won it, but it still was a great effort," manager David Bell said.

The first inning once again set an ominous tone for Castillo. The Rockies opened with back-to-back hits, including Connor Joe's RBI double to right-center field. Josh Fuentes made it a 3-0 game by hitting a full-count changeup that was left over the plate for a two-run home run to left field.

Castillo's first-inning ERA sits at 16.88 with 18 runs allowed (15 earned). But unlike other starts when he often recovers, the Rockies poured on more hits in a disastrous fourth inning.

Colorado sent 10 men up and plated five runs in the fourth. With two outs, five straight batters reached safely. Castillo's final hitter, Fuentes, hit a two-run single into center field to make it an 8-0 game. It was the second time this season that Castillo gave up eight earned runs -- equaling the total that he gave up on Opening Day vs. the Cardinals.

Barnhart pointed out, correctly, that Castillo's sinker was averaging 97.1 mph and that he continues to be close to getting it right again.

"It's definitely maddening, it's frustrating, it's all of the words you want to use," Barnhart said. "When that one inning happens tonight, it just frustrates you even more, especially when you know the pitches got to where you wanted them to go for the most part. They were with the game plan that we had going in. We were on the same page all night, it just didn't work out."

Castillo has often found his fastball and changeup leaking out over the plate. According to Statcast, the whiff rate on his changeup was 26.1 percent entering the night, down from 40.1 percent last year. Meanwhile, his overall strikeout rate coming in was a career-low 16.8 percent, down from 30.5 in 2020.

The issue of not being able to put away hitters was underscored Thursday. Six of Colorado's hits against Castillo came on two-strike counts.

"It has been more difficult than it is when he’s really good," Bell said. "I think there are a few different things we’re working on that he’s still trying to get a feel for. … It’s just a matter of putting the different adjustments together and getting comfortable with it. He’s too talented. He’s working hard. He’s frustrated, of course, and that’s OK. He’s got a great balance of keeping it in perspective, but he’s also doing everything he can to get out of it. It’s just a matter of time. He’s too good."