Red-hot Castellanos leads hit parade as Tigers roll

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Seattle — Nick Castellanos was in the deepest throes of the worst slump of his baseball playing life. This was last month. His batting average had plummeted to .217. He looked utterly forlorn at the plate and, almost as a mercy, manager Brad Ausmus benched him.

It was at that time Castellanos vowed he'd come through it; he vowed that he would start hitting and the hits would come in bunches.

He was right.

Castellanos kick-started the Tigers offense Monday with a two-out home run in the second and he capped a five-run sixth inning with a two-run single in the Tigers 12-5 romp over the Mariners.

"I think it was definitely a flip-the-switch kind of thing for me," said Castellanos, who finished with four hits and four RBIs. "As soon as Brad benched me those three games, it kind of gave me a breather. I just took a step back and remembered the hitter who I was. I never worried about mechanics or video or anything like that.

"I just got back to that. It feels good. Why is it going to so well? I don't have an answer for that — I just feel good right now."

Box score: Tigers 12, Mariners 5

Since his benching, Castellanos has hit safely in 11 of 12 games, with a .382 average and five extra-base hits. In the 12 games he's raised his average nearly 30 points.

And with Miguel Cabrera out for a minimum of six weeks with a left calf injury, the Tigers need all the offensive fuel they can muster.

"We are going to have to find production somewhere without Miggy," Ausmus said. "Nobody is going to be Miggy, but if we can get two or three people contributing close to Miggy, it would certainly help stem the tide for the six to eight weeks."

The Cabrera-less Tigers brought plenty of thunder against Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, ruining his first start since coming off the disabled list. Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez hit back-to-back home runs — both of them monster 400-foot-plus shots to center field — in the fourth.

For J.D. Martinez, a newly-minted All-Star, it was his third homer in three games, his 11th in 13 games and his 24th of the season. Since June 1, his 15 home runs is the most in the major leagues, one more than Albert Pujols, two more than Giancarlo Stanton and Nolan Arenado.

"I don't even know that," he said. "At the end of the day, today is over and tomorrow is a new day. I just go out and play. I really think about all that stuff. That's a distraction. If I just play my game, play the way I know how and everybody else does the same, it becomes a group thing."

For Victor Martinez, it was his ninth home run in 31 games at Safeco Field.

Yoenis Cespedes hit a low-trajectory missile shot some 420 feet to center field in the sixth inning that started an offensive avalanche. The next six Tigers reached base with Castellanos knocking in two, Andrew Romine one and Jose Iglesias one.

The Tigers followed the five-run sixth with a four-run seventh. Again, five straight singles, with J.D. Martinez, Castellanos, Romine and Iglesias knocking in runs.

"I'm a firm believer that hitting is contagious," J.D. Martinez said. "You have a couple of good at-bats and the pitcher loses confidence and everybody just feeds off it."

The Tigers had 19 hits, one short of their season high. Victor Martinez had four of them, J.D. Martinez had three.

The offensive outburst helped mask another sketchy start by Alfredo Simon. He got credit for the win, but he was tagged for five runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.

In his last four starts, his ERA is over 10 and his WHIP over 2.0.

Since Cabrera limped off the field in the fourth inning Friday, the Tigers have scored 32 runs in 3½ games.

"There is not one person who can simulate what Miguel does," Castellanos said. "Just his presence alone makes everyone in the lineup better. It's up to us as a group to step it up. That's what we've been doing but we have to keep it up."