Detroit – He had to stay back on a 70-mph curveball and somehow did, swinging the bat more like a contortionist than a big league hitter as he reached for Chris Bassitt’s curveball and slapped it down the third-base line for a double.
An inning later, Nick Castellanos locked onto an 85-mph slider and all but hammer-threw the bat at a tough pitch, driving it beyond the center fielder’s head for another double.
This is the player he has become at age 24. Castellanos is proving to be a batter who not only can hit, but damage. He’s hitting .333 on the season, with a hearty .869 OPS.
“He does do a good job of staying inside the ball,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday after Castellanos helped Detroit to a 7-3 thumping of Oakland at Comerica Park.
Castellanos is part of what has become a high-caliber Tigers infield, which features not only a rebounding Miguel Cabrera (two hits Thursday), but second baseman Ian Kinsler (.345), as well as Jose Iglesias (.284).
J.D. Martinez and Cabrera combined to swipe a run during the fourth inning.
Martinez was on third and Cabrera on first when, with none out, Victor Martinez hit a short fly to left that was grabbed by Mark Canha, who relayed to third baseman Chris Coghlan.
The fly had been too shallow for Martinez to tag and advance. He instead moved down the third-base line as the relay came to Coghlan on the infield grass. Cabrera meanwhile, seeing Martinez venturing down the line, made a dash for second, which drew a throw from Coghlan, cut off by shortstop Marcus Semien.
Martinez sprinted home, beating Semien’s relay, as Cabrera landed safely at second.
“Miggy was reading J.D., who was doing such a good job of bluffing, he bluffed Miggy,” Ausmus said. “Then, J.D. reacts and beats the throw home.”
“There was nobody at third,” Martinez said, explaining how a sequence of relays and early cut-offs had enabled him to get a lead and bolt for home.