Castellanos' 1st slam more than memorable
Tigers third baseman fuels 8-run inning with long blast
DETROIT -- The Tigers and Mariners have been putting on a power display for the better part of six games this month, mainly from Nelson Cruz and J.D. Martinez. Nick Castellanos doesn't have the track record to be expected to get in on the act.
The way he's hitting against Seattle, nothing seems out of his reach -- not even the retired numbers along the brick wall behind left-center field. He went there in Wednesday's 9-4 win, and it made a first Major League grand slam even more memorable.
"When [Yoenis] Cespedes told me that it hit off the [Al] Kaline name out on the brick wall, I didn't believe him at first," Castellanos said of his third-inning shot to fuel an eight-run rally that provided the bulk of Detroit's runs. "But then some other people told me that it was true, and I was like, 'Man, that's probably the farthest ball I ever hit in my life.'"
It went 447 feet as estimated by Statcast™, and it was Castellanos' second homer in as many nights. He did the same back-to-back streak during the Tigers' series in Seattle a few weeks ago.
In many ways, Seattle has helped Castellanos salvage his summer. His 2-for-3 performance Wednesday improved him to 11-for-22 against the Mariners with four homers and 13 RBIs. Against everyone else this season, he's batting .229 (68-for-297) with four homers and 30 RBIs.
There's a little more to it than that. When Castellanos sat for a few days in late June, he said, he took a mental break.
"It was kind of a reset button," Castellanos said, "How about, 'I'm just going to up there and see the ball and put the big part of the bat to the baseball?' It's been working.'"
Castellanos was hitting .217 with four homers, 26 RBIs and a .594 OPS in 67 games prior to that point, and facing speculation whether he might end up back at Triple-A Toledo to work on his game. Since then, he's batting .333 (28-for-84) with 17 RBIs. The production has allowed him to take on a spot in the middle of a reshuffled batting order that doesn't have Miguel Cabrera for now.
To manager Brad Ausmus, it's part of the learning process Castellanos has experienced in his second full Major League season.
"I think he's kind of learned that at the Major League level, it's a little bit more difficult to perform," Ausmus said. "When you're in high school and then you go to Rookie ball or A ball, you're constantly moving up. There's constantly a level above that you can go up and challenge. There's no higher level than this, so what happens is teams and pitchers, they see him much more frequently, especially in our division.
"There's no secrets, with all the data and the analysis nowadays. There's no secret on what the best pitches to get guys out are. So what I think you're seeing is him having to adjust to the Major League environment. And lately he's done a nice job."