Minneapolis — There have been very few moments of unmitigated joy in the Tigers dugout this month, which is why, even though the they ultimately lost another ballgame Friday —– 6-3 to the Twins — this one was savored.
Nick Castellanos blasted a two-run home run in the first inning, giving him 26 homers and 101 RBIs. He becomes one of six players in Tigers history to drive in 100 runs at age 25 or younger, and the first since a 25-year-old Miguel Cabrera knocked in 127 in 2008.
When he got back to the dugout after circling the bases, he was first greeted by Ian Kinsler, then got a warm embrace from manager Brad Ausmus.
“It was definitely special,” Castellanos said. “Get back and have Ian waiting for me there on the top step to give me a hug. And then Brad being there and everybody was just as happy as I was.
“That was awesome.”
It was a rare show of dugout emotion from Ausmus.
“One hundred RBIs is the benchmark for a good, productive season,” he said. “I always thought Nick would be a run-producer and this was the first time he reached that benchmark — and guys were happy for him.
“I was certainly happy for him.”
When you join Cabrera and Al Kaline in the franchise record books, you’ve done something. Castellanos is the first Tiger since Kaline in 1956 — and the sixth since 1913 — to record 25 or more home runs, 100 or more RBIs and 10 or more triples.
“As a kid you always envision yourself as a superstar, and doing what all the greats in the game do,” said Castellanos, who has hit safely in 26 of 28 games in September, hitting .372 with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 25 RBIs. “I always believed I could do it but the process is difficult.
“And baseball is a difficult game. It’s mentally tough. And I’ve found a way from when the season started until now (to remain productive).”
Castellanos was asked if 25 and 100 were the new normal for him; his answer spoke to his ambition in this game.
“I never wanted to set limitations for myself,” he said. “I don’t want to say this is my goal and this is what I’m going to be happy with. You never really know where the top is. You just have to keep your head down and keep working and whenever your career ends, you look back and see where you are.”
Certainly Castellanos is one of the useful takeaways in this lost season. So is left-hander Matthew Boyd. He came in riding a streak of three straight quality starts, including a 6 2/3-inning, one-earned run outing against the Twins last weekend at Comerica Park.
He was hit by the home-run ball in the second inning Friday — and it ultimately beat him — but he found a way to grind through five innings.
“I didn’t have my best stuff but it still could’ve been a lot better,” he said. “I just want one pitch back, the one to (Brian) Dozier. I overthought that whole situation. I could’ve done something different there.
“I should’ve went with my gut but I made a mistake and it’s on me.”
The Tigers were up 3-1 and there were two runners on and two outs. He froze Dozier with a 1-2 fastball on the inside corner. It was a borderline pitch and Boyd didn’t get the call from umpire Jeff Kellogg.
But, seeing that Dozier was frozen on the pitch and might be looking for something soft, he came right back with another fastball. This one was center-cut and Dozier blasted it 411 feet to the seats in left.
“Yeah, that was my reasoning,” he said. “But I got him to swing bad at a change-up two pitches earlier and I could’ve gone back to that. I should have gone back to that. That’s 100 percent on me.”
Compounding his frustration, Eduardo Escobar followed with another long homer to left. The two home runs carried a combined distance of 828 feet. Boyd had only allowed two home runs in 31 2/3 innings this month before the second inning Friday.
All things considered, his impressive bounce-back in September after he was sent to Toledo earlier in the season, his simplified delivery that triggered his success this month, his near no-hitter against the White Sox, all of that far outweighs the two home runs on Friday.
“The overall numbers may not say I had a better year, but I grew much more this year than I have in years past,” Boyd said. “I feel like I set myself up with the adjustments I made to have success in the future.
“This last month for me has been an eye-opener to see. Tonight I didn’t have my best stuff and I was one pitch away from getting through that inning and keeping the lead. I feel good how I have grown."
“He had the best stuff of anybody coming out of spring training,” he said. “But he was kind of inconsistent and we sent him to Triple-A. But he came back strong and with his simplified mechanics, there is no reason he can’t be a consistent major-league pitcher for the Tigers next year.”