CLEVELAND -- One month from Tuesday, Reds ace Luis Castillo could find himself standing on the mound at Progressive Field again, representing his team in the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. While many could point to the times he has been dominant this season on his resume, Castillo also showed
CLEVELAND -- One month from Tuesday, Reds ace Luis Castillo could find himself standing on the mound at Progressive Field again, representing his team in the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. While many could point to the times he has been dominant this season on his resume, Castillo also showed the willingness and ability vs. the Indians to grind when the stakes are high.
Despite not figuring in the decision of a 2-1 Cincinnati loss in 10 innings against Cleveland, which ended on Oscar Mercado’s bases-loaded RBI single off Raisel Iglesias, Castillo did escape nicely from his own bases-loaded moment in the sixth.
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“I think he wants to be out there in those situations,” Reds manager David Bell said of Castillo. “He feels like he has the stuff to get out of any situation, and he does. It was fun to be able to give him that opportunity, even though he was getting up there in pitches for that inning and he was tired. He found enough.”
Furthering his case to be part of the National League pitching staff, Castillo allowed one run and four hits with two walks and six strikeouts over six innings. The performance lowered his ERA to 2.20, good for second in the NL and fourth overall in the Major Leagues. Hyun-Jin Ryu leads both leagues with a 1.36 ERA. Although Castillo is 6-1 in his decisions, the Reds are 1-5 in his no-decisions.
Castillo opened his evening by giving up Francisco Lindor’s leadoff double, but then retired the next 10 batters in a row. That ended when Carlos Santana hit a 2-1 changeup for a homer to right-center field in the fourth. In the fifth inning against Indians All-Star Trevor Bauer, who is winless since April 30, Nick Senzel tied the score at 1 with a one-out RBI double to right-center field.
When Lindor opened the bottom of the sixth with another double, Castillo had to reach down deep to keep Cleveland from taking the lead.
“When you are in those situations, you have to battle. It’s like a battle that you have to win hitter by hitter,” Castillo said via translator Julio Morillo.
After he had Santana in a 1-2 count with one out, Castillo threw three straight balls for the walk. Following a mound visit from pitching coach Derek Johnson, Castillo had Tyler Naquin in a 1-2 count, but he walked him, too, to load the bases. Michael Lorenzen was ready in the Reds bullpen, and Castillo took a look at Bell in the first-base dugout.
“I thought he was going to take me out of the game,” Castillo said. “When I looked at him, just from the dugout, he told me, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!’ When the manager gives you that confidence, then it makes me feel really, really good on the mound.”
Bell didn’t see anything to show that Castillo was losing it. So he stuck by his guy.
“As soon as he got the second out, he was going to get the chance to do what he had done,” Bell said.
Jose Ramirez was in a 2-1 count before he fouled off five consecutive pitches, some of them lasers pulled to the right side. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Castillo got Ramirez to whiff on an 89-mph changeup.
“I think he was ready to do damage,” Castillo said. “He was ready to bring those runners in. I think I was pulling him inside, pitch over pitch over pitch. It was a moment, ‘OK, he’s got it. He’s handled that part of the plate really well.’ That’s when I went with the changeup away and I struck him out.”
That brought up Jake Bauers.
“I thought to myself, ‘The job isn’t done yet.' The most important thing in the whole inning was the last hitter,” Castillo said.
Bauers was in an 0-2 count before he fouled off the third pitch, and he battled back to 2-2 after Castillo put a changeup in the dirt that had to be blocked by catcher Tucker Barnhart. With his 109th pitch of the game, and 37th of the inning, Castillo offered a slider at the bottom of the strike zone. Bauers watched it go by without taking a swing.
Strike three. Castillo bounded excitedly off the mound and swung his right arm up in celebration.
“That kid's nasty, throwing high 90s, and he's got a changeup that's 10 miles per hour off of that. He's filthy,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We didn't do anything against the other guys -- but I was glad to see him out of there.”
Lorenzen threw a perfect seventh inning, and David Hernandez retired all six batters in the eighth and ninth with five strikeouts. A four-pitch walk with one out by Iglesias led to his downfall in the 10th.
That didn’t diminish the outing the Reds got from Castillo, who could become the Reds' first All-Star starting pitcher since Johnny Cueto in 2014. Cueto was not used in that game, however.
“I’ve been working for that,” Castillo said. “I think it’s going to be a neat experience if that happens.”
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.