Castellanos’ round-tripper was one to remember

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Not since before high school.

That’s how long it had been since Nick Castellanos hit an inside-the-park home run before Tuesday night.

“Not since back when there were no fences,” he said.

The Tigers were down 13-3 in the ninth inning when Castellanos, who had homered over the right field fence in the seventh, hit a sinking line drive that center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury inadviseably made a sliding attempt to catch or block.

The ball rolled past him all the way to the wall, 420 feet from home plate.

“As soon as it got by him, that’s what I was thinking (inside-the-park),” Castellanos said. “At least I was going to run for it. But, down by however many runs, I’m not going to run into an easy out.

“As soon as I saw Clarkie (third-base coach Dave Clark) wave me, I was like, ‘Excellent.’”

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Statcast clocked his four-base jaunt at 15.7 seconds.

“Slow,” JaCoby Jones said as he passed by Castellanos’ locker.

“Clarkie was saying if I’d been running from the jump I would’ve went in standing up,” Castellanos said. “Probably true. When I hit it, all I was hoping for was that it fell in.”

That’s understandable, given how many line drives Castellanos has watched fall into defenders’ gloves this season. According to data compiled by FanGraphs, he ranks fifth in the American League with a 24.7-percent line drive rate and second with a 45.5 percent hard-hit ball rate.

Yet, he’s hitting just .248.

“Yeah, I’ve barreled quite a few balls that went to the warning track and whatnot — close but no cigar,” he said. “It’s baseball.”

So, he was going to savor his two home-run night Tuesday. They were his first home runs since Aug. 6.

“His average is down a little, but that’s misleading,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “Just because of how well he hit the ball, especially early in the season with no results. He could end up with 90 RBIs, that’s pretty good.”

Actually, Castellanos is on pace to hit 25-plus home runs and knock in more than 90 runs — both would be career bests.

He also leads the American League in triples (nine) and has a chance to become the first Tiger since 2008 to post 20 home runs and 10 triples in the same season.

“Who did it?” Castellanos asked.

Curtis Granderson, in 2007 and 2008.

“Oh, nice,” Castellanos said. “Curtis is a stud.”

Robot umps?

Commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking to the media at Comerica Park on Tuesday, said he expects the technology to be in place reasonably soon that would allow balls and strikes to be called electronically.

“But there is a separate question as to whether you want to take the human element of the home plate umpire out of the game,” he said.

Ausmus is of two minds on the idea of an electronic strike zone.

“You don’t want to turn it into a game played by men and umpired by robots,” he said. “But, a perfect umpire would have a neutral impact on the game, right? Umpires should have a completely neutral impact on the game.

“But umpires, for better or worse, have an impact on the game. We talk about catchers impacting strikes. Well, umpires impact strikes and balls. … One pitch can change an at-bat. And if you can change an at-bat, it can change a game.”

He joked, though, that if balls and strikes were called electronically, they could do away with the pitch-framing metrics.

“I think, though, if they had an electronic strike zone, hitters would become happy with how the corners are called, but they would realize up and down is a lot bigger than they thought it was,” he said.

Around the horn

Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez (hamstring) threw on flat ground Wednesday for the first time since going on the disabled list. He will not make his next scheduled start, which is Saturday. Ausmus said he hoped that both Sanchez and Daniel Norris (quad, groin) would be ready to return by Sept. 1, when the Tigers will play a doubleheader against the Indians.

… Mikie Mahtook wasn’t in the starting lineup Wednesday, his first non-start since July 19. He has seen action in 36 straight games since the All-Star break and has hit .313 in that stretch. He had been hitless in his last 13 at-bats.

… Castellanos took part in early outfield drills at 3 p.m. Wednesday. He also tracked and shagged fly balls from right field during batting practice. “It’s still possible he could get into some games out there in September,” Ausmus said. “But he’s not ready to go out there now. He has to have a comfort level out there. We don’t want him to spiral backwards because he’s not comfortable and then he loses interest.” @cmccosky