DETROIT -- Nicholas Castellanos is working to be a leader in an increasingly young Tigers clubhouse, and he has made a point to keep teammates loose and relaxed as the season unfolds. But even he admits he's been feeling the weight of the Tigers' struggles through his second-half slump.Castellanos felt
DETROIT -- Nicholas Castellanos is working to be a leader in an increasingly young Tigers clubhouse, and he has made a point to keep teammates loose and relaxed as the season unfolds. But even he admits he's been feeling the weight of the Tigers' struggles through his second-half slump.
Castellanos felt the burden of a cold streak that had followed him since the All-Star break heading into Monday night's game against the White Sox, a team he has tormented all season. With his first career five-hit game, including a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh and a two-run single in the eighth, that feeling of a first half that warranted All-Star consideration had returned in a 9-5 Tigers victory at Comerica Park.
"If I said that I never put extra pressure on myself, I'd be lying," he said, "because I want to do good for everybody. But I also have been in this game long enough [to know] that you go through streaks like that. It is what it is."
Not since Ian Kinsler at Wrigley Field three years ago had a Tiger posted five hits. Not since Justin Upton on Aug. 18, in his final weeks as a Tiger, had a Detroit player racked up 10 total bases in a game. But what Castellanos was seeking was beyond the stats -- that sense that he had at the plate earlier in the year.
"I knew once I kind of had the feeling that I was looking for and felt it," Castellanos said, "like, 'Oh, OK, that's it.' Just hold it."
That's always the tricky part for a hitter. But Castellanos has shown a knack for holding that feeling when he steps to the plate against White Sox pitching.
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"He's pretty much a laid-back guy. He goes about his business, and he believes he can hit," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Tonight, he was on the baseball. He really had a big night."
Castellanos stepped into the box in the seventh -- an inning after Omar Narvaez hit a game-tying solo homer off Drew VerHagen -- with a runner on first and Jeanmar Gomez (0-1) searching for outs with his sinker. Gomez, having seen Castellanos post two doubles and a 103-mph single off White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez, stayed away from the strike zone for three pitches before his 2-1 offering wandered over the middle of the plate.
Castellanos drove the pitch on a line over the left-field fence, hit with a 108.7-mph exit velocity according to Statcast™, his second-hardest hit homer this season. It gave the Tigers a 6-4 lead with an exclamation point.
Though Adam Engel's fourth home run of the year cut the gap to a run in the eighth, Victor Reyes' RBI double added an insurance tally before back-to-back two-out walks loaded the bases for Castellanos. Needing a triple for the cycle, he took a two-run single, lacing a 2-0 pitch back through the middle off Juan Minaya.
Castellanos also doubled in a fifth-inning run and scored another after a leadoff double in the fourth. His home run and five RBIs mirrored his total output since the All-Star break, part of a .173 (13-for-75) second-half slump. Fittingly, he broke out of it off White Sox pitching. Castellanos has feasted to the tune of a .419 (18-for-43) average with four homers and 14 RBIs against the Sox this season -- including his last five-RBI game on June 16 in Chicago.
"Today was a really good day," Castellanos said. "They're fun when they happen."
James McCann added three hits and three runs scored.
"Hitting's contagious," McCann said. "I don't care whether you're hitting in the three-hole or the nine-hole. You saw what happened when Nick got going."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Sidearming righty gets lefty slugger: Narvaez had been hitting right-handed pitching all year, before his game-tying homer off VerHagen. With no lefty in the Tigers' bullpen, that created some nervousness when Narvaez stepped to the plate an inning later with runners at the corners and two outs against Louis Coleman. The sidearming reliever pounded the outside corner against Narvaez, who fouled off a changeup, fastball and slider to extend the at-bat. With a 2-2 count, Coleman went back over the middle with a fastball, surprising Narvaez into a groundout to short to keep it a 4-4 game.
The Tigers are 9-1 against the White Sox this season, including 3-1 at Comerica Park. They need one more win to take the season series for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
HE SAID IT
"It's been a while since I sat down on the bench and watched a baseball game. Kind of take a step back every now and again and slow yourself down. It's not a bad thing to do." -- Castellanos, on the benefit of being out of the lineup on Sunday with a sore foot
Blaine Hardy (4-4, 3.63 ERA) hopes to rebound from one of his rougher starts of the season last week when he takes the mound Tuesday for the middle game of the series. Hardy is 3-1 with a 3.62 ERA at home. Lucas Giolito (7-9, 6.23) is scheduled to start for the White Sox. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. ET.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.