Chicago — White Sox manager Robin Ventura maybe went to the well one too many times with Nick Castellanos.
Three times in the first two games of this series, Ventura walked Victor Martinez intentionally to get to Castellanos. He did it twice on Friday night, and was possibly trying to do it semi-intentionally another time, only Martinez foiled it by swinging at a 3-0 pitch.
“He’s done it a lot,” Castellanos said.
And got away with it the first three times. Castellanos said before the game on Saturday that he hoped the White Sox continue the practice.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “If you’re going to walk somebody to pitch to me, I am going to dig in every time. I completely understand what they’re doing. Victor’s record speaks for itself. I understand.
“They’d rather take a chance with me rather than Victor. But it’s my job to show them they’ve got to stop doing that.”
He stated his case Saturday.
The Tigers were trailing 3-2 in the eighth inning. Cameron Maybin was on second base with one out and Ventura again had his pitcher, Nate Jones, walk Martinez to get to Castellanos.
This time, on a 0-2 pitch, Castellanos whacked a game-tying single to center field. The rains fell soon after and the game was suspended. The ninth inning will commence today at 2:10 p.m.
“You do press a little bit (in those situations),” Castellanos said. “Just have to try and relax and get a good pitch to hit. You can’t try to do too much.”
It seemed an odd strategy for the White Sox to deploy.
Castellanos is hitting .298 on the season, Martinez .291. But in July, Castellanos has been by far the hotter hitter. Before Saturday he was hitting .281 with a .531 slugging percentage and .860 OPS. Martinez is hitting .156 in July.
Since the All-Star break, Martinez was 3 for 26.
There has been a right-handed pitcher on the mound for the White Sox in each of the four instances. So if it’s about preferring a right-hander on right-hander matchup with Castellanos, well, the numbers would suggest that’s counterintuitive, too.
Castellanos is hitting .322 against right-handers this season.
So, from a recent data standpoint, the move doesn’t seem to make sense.
Yet, it worked the first three times.
In the third inning Thursday, Martinez was walked to load the bases with two outs. James Shields stuck out Castellanos to end the inning.
In the first inning Friday, Martinez was walked with two outs and Miguel Cabrera at second base. Highly unusual in the first inning. And it looked like the move would cost the White Sox when Castellanos worked a walk off Jacob Turner.
But Turner was able to strike out Justin Upton to end the threat.
In the sixth inning, again after a two-out double by Cabrera, Molitor walked Martinez to get to Castellanos. Right-hander Tommy Kahnle got Castellanos to fly out to right field.
But on Saturday, after going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a double-play ball, Castellanos finally foiled the strategy – and in clutch fashion.