Castellanos' big hit in eighth inning lifts Tigers
Detroit — When Nick Castellanos got to third base in the eighth inning Wednesday night, it looked like he could barely contain himself. He bent over at the waist, then squatted down to pat the earth and then raised up triumphantly to slap hands with third base coach Dave Clark.
"Man, I have been waiting for that all season," he said. "I needed it, the team needed it, the organization and the fans needed it. I feel blessed I was able to deliver it."
Castellanos delivered a dramatic, two-out, two-strike, three-run triple in the eighth inning that allowed the Tigers to salvage one of the three games against the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-2.
It was the kind of game-breaking hit that has eluded the Tigers in recent weeks.
"It was trending like some of the recent games for about seven innings," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But that's exactly what we were talking about — somebody to step in with the bases loaded or two men on and hit a three-run double or a home run or something."
The Tigers are 24-17, but have played sub.500 baseball since their 9-1 start (15-16).
And until Castellanos' tremendous at-bat in the eighth off reliever Jonathon Broxton, Wednesday's game was another illustration of what's been ailing the Tigers.
Another soft-tossing right-handed pitcher — veteran Kyle Lohse — gave their right-handed dominant lineup fits, just as so many similarly-styled pitchers have this season.
The Tigers came into the game second in the American League hitting .277. Yet, they were just seventh in runs scored and scored two runs or fewer in 19 games.
The Brewers have given up more runs than any team in baseball. Yet, the Tigers, after scoring just three runs in the first two games, were limited to two through seven innings.
"It's kind of been our story all year long," said J.D. Martinez, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games with two singles, including one that started the two-out rally in the eighth. "One game we all hit and the others we're kind of scuffling for that big hit. For Nick to get that hit and pick us all up is huge."
It looked like it was going to be more of the same after the Tigers loaded the bases with nobody out in the fourth inning and managed only one run — that on a ground out by Castellanos.
Catcher James McCann ended the inning with a 4-6-3 double play, the Tigers' MLB-leading 42nd GIDP.
"You think about it (happening again) because it's happened so frequently lately," Ausmus said. "I still felt like we could get to Lohse, but he continues to mix speeds and hit the corners."
They appeared on the verge of leaving the bases loaded again in the ninth. After Broxton got the first two outs, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes singled and Tyler Collins walked.
Broxton got two quick strikes on Castellanos. But Castellanos battled. He worked the count back to 2-2. He fouled off two fastballs, one at 96 mph and another at 97, before lacing one into the corner in right field — clearing the bases.
"He has electric stuff," Castellanos said. "You can't really cheat to his fastball because his off-speed stuff complements it so much. I wasn't focused on pulling the ball at all, just trying to stay in the middle of the field.
"I ended up being short enough (his stroke) to get to the fastball."
Of course, Castellanos isn't in that situation without the at-bats that preceded him. Martinez singled with two outs. Yoenis Cespedes, also falling into a two-strike hole, battled and then poked a slider into right field.
Tyler Collins then worked a walk.
"That whole inning was just good hitting by the Tigers," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Brox got (Ian) Kinsler and (Miguel) Cabrera, and then Martinez gets the single, Cespedes just flicks his bat at a good slider, and then we tried to get the kid, Collins, to expand the zone and he wouldn't do it.
"Then Castellanos comes up and has a really good at-bat. That's tough, but that's why they are a good offense."
The Tigers' first run came in the second. Cespedes doubled, stole second and came home when catcher Martin Maldonado's throw sailed into left field.
The pitching didn't fail the Tigers Wednesday, either. Shane Greene, showing no lingering effects from the jangled ulnar nerve that ended his previous start after five innings, made essentially one mistake through 6-1/3 innings.
That mistake, a first-pitch hanging breaking ball, was hit into the stands in left field by Ryan Braun.
Other than that, he allowed just two other singles. With his cutter and slider especially sharp, he struck out six.
"Every five days I just try to give us a chance to win," he said. "That was a huge at-bat by Nick. He needed that and we needed that. Hopefully that's something we can build off of."
He was at 106 pitches when he walked Khris Davis in the seventh.
Angel Nesbitt came on and gave up an opposite-field single to Luis Sardinas and a golf-shot double to Elian Herrera that scored Davis to tie the score.
Sardinas seemed too content to stop at third base, as the ball rattled around in right field. He was then doubled off third on a liner to shortstop by Maldonado.
Joba Chamberlain and Blaine Hardy combined to get through the eighth, leaving the ninth to closer Joakim Soria. After a leadoff double by Aramis Ramirez, Soria got the next three for his 13th save.
"I think we're a better team than we've played so far," Ausmus said. "I think we have underachieved to this point. But the season's 162 games, so we've only played a quarter of that.
"I think it will correct itself."