With the first of four hits on Wednesday night, Starlin Castro extended a hit streak to 10-straight games going back to May 1st, over which the 31-year-old infielder was 15 for 37 (.405/.488/.486) with three doubles, six walks, and just five strikeouts.
Castro’s four-hit outing left him with a .300/.344/.383 line overall on the year this season, after 32 games and 131 plate appearances.
“I just go up there and try to hit my pitch,” Castro said of his approach at the plate over the last ten. “Try to chase less, the most that I can, and that’s one of the things that helps me a lot. Swing a lot at strikes, and that makes me feel better at the plate.”
Davey Martinez, who spent time with Castro in Chicago when both were with the Cubs and advocated for signing the infielder in D.C., said this is the Castro he knows.
“He’s been — Starlin is Starlin. We said this — I’ve said this from the beginning with him,” the fourth-year skipper told reporters before Thursday’s series finale with Philadelphia’s Phillies in the nation’s capital.
“He’s going to hit. He’s got the knack to put the ball in play, and square balls up. He gets his hits, that’s just who he is. At the end of the year, Starlin will have his 175-plus hits, hit his .280, .290, hit 15-20 home runs and play good. What I really notice is how well he’s playing third base. He’s really playing third base really well for us, and that’s awesome.”
Castro, who put up a .253/.273/.337 line with four doubles, a home run, three walks, and 17 Ks in 22 games and 88 PAs in April, said on Wednesday night that he hadn’t really changed much in the last stretch, but just kept grinding away and working with hitting coaches Kevin Long and Pat Roessler (aka “Six”).
“Me, and K-Long, and Six, we’re always working,” Castro said.
“And just get a good pitch to hit, and I think watching [Juan] Soto getting all those good at bats may cause us as a player to get better.”
While Castro hit a career-high 22 home runs in 162 games in 2019, before signing on in D.C., he has just one this season, though his manager’s not concerned about power numbers.
“No, and I’ve always talked to him about just being a doubles guy,” Martinez explained.
“The power — he’ll run into balls, but for me I think he’s a 40+ doubles guy, and he can be that way.
“I know he’s hit some home runs — but he’s a guy — if he starts trying to hit home runs, he’ll start getting underneath the ball a little bit. I just want him to hit line drives. I never put any thoughts in his head about hitting home runs.
“He’ll hit them because he’s got such a unique swing, and like I said he barrels balls up a lot, but for me it’s just go gap-to-gap, that’s what he’s really good at.”
“I always like to go up there feeling good,” Castro said, before echoing his manager’s take on the power.
“The power is going to come,” he added. “I don’t worry about this. I just like to get on base, get a hit, I know the power is going to come no matter what, it’s going to come because I did it before.”
Castro’s focus, he said, is not on hitting home runs, it’s on getting better every day.
“Pretty much I’m the type of guy that always wants to get better,” Castro said. “No matter how good I do or how I bad I do, I just want to continue to get better. And that’s what I do. That’s what I do every day when I come to the ballpark, just go to the cage, work out, hit the most I can, until I feel good, and I think that’s one of the things that helps me stay really focused at the plate.”
“He works on driving the ball to the middle of the field,” Martinez said of the work Castro, Long, and Roessler do, “and that’s what he’s good at. He wants to stay behind the balls.
“And they work a lot of count situations with him. Where they feel like hey, 2-0, 3-1, certain situations, go ahead and try to drive a ball and he’s been work on that diligently.”
Castro walked the first time up against Zach Eflin on Thursday afternoon, scoring on a Josh Bell home run in the at bat that followed, then he singled in his second plate appearance to extend his streak to 11-straight games.
He finished the day 2 for 3 with an RBI double in the sixth for his second hit.
Martinez was asked after the 5-1 win what’s been more impressed by, Castro’s hit streak, or the walks he’s taken over the 11-game stretch?
“The walks,” he said.
“The walks with him, honestly, because I’ve been with him when he doesn’t walk a whole lot, but when he gets the ball in the strike zone he hits the ball really hard. And that’s something that we’re working on with him, talking about all the time with him. With that being said, we don’t want him to lose his aggressiveness either, because he’s a very aggressive hitter.”