Detroit — The Chicago White Sox have been good for whatever has ailed the Tigers this season.
And they have certainly been a tonic for Nick Castellanos.
The Tigers improved to 9-1 against their Central Division rivals with a 9-5 victory Monday night. They have now won three of four on this homestand.
"Today was a really good day," he said. "These are fun when they happen."
He came in hitting .173 with three RBIs since the All-Star break and all he did was produce his first career five-hit game, knocking in five of the nine runs.
"I guess it was about time," he said. "It only took me five years."
In five at-bats he rapped two doubles, a line-drive, two-run home run in the seventh inning that broke a 4-4 tie and a two-run single in the ninth that blew the game open.
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Against the White Sox this season, Castellanos is hitting .418 (18 for 43) with four home runs and 14 RBIs.
"Hitting is contagious," said catcher James McCann, who had a three-hit, three-run game himself. "I don't care who you are, in the three-hole or the nine-hole. Hits are contagious. You saw what happens. Nick gets going and then all of a sudden everybody gets going."
It's not a coincidence that when Castellanos scuffled coming out of the All-Star break, so did the Tigers offense. The cause and effect there is undeniable. And even though Castellanos has remained an upbeat presence in the clubhouse — and he is still hitting .291 and leading the team in homers and RBIs — the weight of his struggles was pressing on him.
"If I said I never put extra pressure on myself, I'd be lying," he said. "Because I want to be good for everybody. But I've been in this game long enough to know that you are going to go through stretches.
"You just stay the course, put the work in and keep the same attitude."
That has been McCann's mantra, as well. His batting average has hovered between .220 and .230 most of the season. But he started to hit the ball hard, without results, on the West Coast trip, and he's now 5 for 10 on this homestand.
"That's the tough part of this game; the results don't always show," said McCann, who also threw out two would-be base-stealers Monday. "But if the process is right, eventually, the results will be there. That's the mental grind. You have to keep going. You can't always go back to the drawing board.
"Tonight was just a culmination of staying with what I know was working and trusting that eventually I will find some holes."
It was a 6-5 game when McCann blasted a one-out double in the bottom of the eighth. He would score on a single by rookie Victor Reyes, who smartly kept running around first to force the throw from the outfield to be cut off.
That allowed McCann to score without a play and, bonus, Reyes was safe at second using a swim move to avoid the tag.
"That play right there gets overlooked right there, but that's a huge part of that inning," McCann said. "Even if he's out at second, the insurance run still scores."
It also helped set the table for Castellanos' fifth at-bat. After a pair of walks, he came up with the bases loaded against right-hander Juan Minaya. He laced a 2-0 pitch up the middle to score two more.
"Just a great night for Nicky," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You know, he's so laid back, he doesn't really think about it (when he's struggling). He's just a laid-back guy and he goes about his business.
"He believes he can hit and tonight he was right on the baseball."