Nick knocks, Tigers answer with win over White Sox

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Nick Castellanos is a crowd-pleaser. There is no doubting that. 

And he put on a very interactive show for the rambunctious crowd of 24,648 at Comerica Park Friday night, leading the Tigers with his bat, glove and arm to a come-from-behind, 5-4 win over the White Sox. 

“I’m telling you right now, if you are a fan sitting in right field, we’re going to have some fun,” Castellanos said. 

BOX SCORE: Tigers 5, White Sox 4

All season long, Castellanos has kept the fans in the right-field seats informed of how many outs there all, holding up one or two fingers to the infield, to center fielder Leonys Martin and then to the fans.

"He really has a good time with them,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I just hope he doesn’t get hit in the back of the head with a ball.”

Or a beer.  

 In the sixth inning, he chased a foul pop-up from Adam Engel into the stands, jumping in and spilling beer over a patron and his date.

“The first words out of my mouth were, ‘Oh crap,’” Castellanos said. “Because I knocked his beer everywhere, all over him and his wife or girlfriend. And he says, ‘Did you at least catch it?’ And I said yeah. And was like, ‘All right!’ and we high-fived.

“That was just a real happy moment.”

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The night was full of them for Castellanos and the Tigers.

In the fifth inning, Castellanos saved a run by throwing out Daniel Palka at second base, throwing a laser from the warning track in right field on a ball that hit the base of the wall.

“That felt really good,” said Castellanos, who has worked tirelessly on his defense since being transitioned to the outfield last September. “I will tell you what, it felt kind of like hitting a homer. It was even cooler that Gene Roof got to be here.”

Roof is the Tigers longtime roving outfield coordinator who spent countless hours with Castellanos during spring training. 

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“A lot of people have put in a lot of work into the defensive side of my game,” Castellanos said. “And for it to start coming together, it feels good.”

But Castellanos’ calling card is his bat. And it’s been on fire since Gardenhire moved him to the No. 2 spot in the batting order. He got three hits Friday, including two doubles, the second plated the tying run in the eighth inning.

It was his 20th multi-hit game this season, five straight, and four since moving into the 2-hole.

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“I really don’t care where I hit,” Castellanos said. “Gardy called me into his office (when the team was in Seattle last week) and he was kind of hesitant with it. He gave me a whole bunch of reasons why he wanted to do it and I just said, ‘Gardy, I don’t really care where I hit, as long as I get to hit.’”

Gardenhire made the move based on, wait for it, analytics. 

“We’d been talking about it,” Gardenhire said. “With all the people we’ve got beat up. I mean, analytics — he gets more at-bats in the two-hole. I’ve been reading up on all this stuff. He enjoys it, he’s swinging it well there, so we just worked the other people around him.”

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The eighth inning: The Tigers, stymied for seven innings by White Sox power-armed starter Reynaldo Lopez, were trailing 4-2. Former Tiger right-hander Bruce Rondon was summoned. He had struck out four straight Tigers in his White Sox debut back in April.

But Comerica Park remains his personal house of horror. 

Jose Iglesias started the inning with a double. Martin, who had two hits, singled him home and then Castellanos knocked a slider from Rondon into the corner in left.

“I kind of had an idea how he pitches from playing behind him all those years,” Castellanos said. “He throws hard but he likes his soft stuff. He punched me out in Chicago with soft stuff. I don’t want to say I was sitting slider, but I had an idea.”

Martin stormed around the bases and made a superb slide to the front of the plate, just avoiding the tag of catcher Omar Narvaez. The White Sox challenged the call, but it was upheld.

"I still don't know if Martin is 100 percent," Gardenhire said. "He had a chance to go first to third earlier in the game and he kind of pulled up. But he definitely let it fly on that one and he opened it. I don't have too many fears after seeing that."

Castellanos went to third on the throw and scored the go-ahead run when White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu circled but couldn't catch Jeimer Candelario's blooper in short right field.

The Tigers bullpen shut the door for the final 3⅔ innings — Warwick Saupold, Daniel Stumpf and Buck Farmer — with closer Shane Greene getting a clutch double-play from Jose Abreu in the ninth to earn his 12th save. 

“The bullpen did its job, and Greeney got his outs,” Gardenhire said. “That was a good night. A nice way to start a home stand.”