Castro shows off with tying, walk-off hits

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — The last time the Tigers overcame a three-run deficit to win, Javier Báez powered an Opening Day comeback victory with a walk-off hit off the center-field wall. On Tuesday night, Harold Castro accomplished the same by depositing a flare into center, just as he has done countless times.

As soon as the Royals intentionally walked Báez to load the bases with two outs in the 10th inning, Castro’s teammates could see it coming.

“We were getting to the showers as soon as they walked Javy to get to Hittin’ Harold,” Spencer Torkelson said after the Tigers’ 4-3 win at Comerica Park. “He already had two knocks on the day. He’s an incredible hitter, and we have all the confidence in the world when he gets up.”

The Tigers faced a 3-0 deficit going into the eighth inning thanks to a masterful start from old nemesis Zack Greinke. Until Tuesday, Detroit was 1-69 when trailing by three runs or more, and it was more likely to score no runs than three runs in such situations. The Tigers rallied with a leadoff walk and smart baserunning by Torkelson, a surprise bunt single from Akil Baddoo and an RBI roller to third on an 0-2 pitch from Riley Greene. The only hit to leave the infield during the three-run rally was Castro’s game-tying two-run single.

“Listen, he’s hit for some more power this year,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “But if you want a single, he finds a way to find the outfield grass. He does an incredible job of hanging in there.”

Castro had three of the Tigers’ eight hits on the night, including the last two — both for key RBIs. His bases-loaded single in the 10th inning was off an 0-2 breaking ball at his ankles, in a tough lefty-lefty matchup with Royals southpaw and Michigan native Anthony Misiewicz.

“Both of those at-bats were just really clutch at-bats — getting the barrel on the ball, or the end of the bat on the ball, and creating good fortune,” Hinch said.

Castro rounded first base, holding his bat in the air, as the ball landed just out of the reach of second baseman Michael Massey in shallow center. Castro kept on running to second, bat still in hand, then eluded his teammates as they tried to tackle him for the celebration. He kept on running down the dugout steps as his teammates tried to chase him with a water jug.

Castro even eluded the media after the game, continuing one of the oddities of a season in which he has set career highs in nearly every offensive category and fought his way out of a super-utility role and into regular playing time around the field for much of the summer. He hasn’t talked with reporters or television since early in the season. There’s no sign of ill will on his part toward the media, but he politely declines every time, leaving teammates and staff to talk about him in his place.

“He had a really good night,” Greene said. “Coming up to bat, we kind of all felt like, ‘Harry’s going to do it.’ He’s seeing the ball well right now, swinging the bat really well. I kind of had a feeling he was going to do it.”

Greene also pointed out the defensive play that Castro made at third base to save a run in the top of the 10th, a diving stop on a Bobby Witt Jr. grounder down the line. While Castro had no chance to retire the speedy Witt at first base, his stop held MJ Melendez at second. If the ball got through, the Tigers would’ve had a deficit and Witt would have been on second base. Instead, reliever Alex Lange got out of the first-and-second jam with a Salvador Perez popout and a Vinnie Pasquantino double-play grounder, and the Tigers were set up for their sixth win in their past seven games.

For Castro, the performance is a reminder of what he can do amidst what had been a tough month for him. Torkelson’s return from Triple-A Toledo combined with the late-season look given to Ryan Kreidler has cut into Castro’s playing time, and his production has tailed somewhat with it.

With Scott Harris learning the roster as the Tigers’ new president of baseball operations, the team needs to figure out where Castro fits in the near future amidst the other young infielders. He’ll be eligible for arbitration for a second time this offseason. Nights like Tuesday show what he can do.

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