Detroit — The only person who was able to stop Harold Castro Tuesday was Javier Báez, who tackled him behind the mound after Castro slapped the game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th inning in the Tigers’ 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.
Castro got up, ran past the on-field interview request of Bally Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson, ran into the Comerica Park clubhouse, changed, and then ran past the media to go meet his family.
That left everybody else to talk about his three-hit, three-RBI heroics.
Spencer Torkelson was asked about his confidence level when Castro came to bat with the bases loaded and two outs against left-handed reliever Anthony Misiewicz.
“We were getting into the shower as soon as they walked Javy,” Torkelson said, laughing. “We were like, ‘All right, get to Hittin’ Harold.’ He’s an incredible hitter. We have all the confidence in the world in him.”
It was Castro’s third straight three-hit game. He’d tied the game in the bottom of the eighth with a two-out, two-strike, two-run single.
“When he came up to bat we all felt Harry was going to do it,” Riley Greene said. “He’s really seeing the ball well and he’s swinging it well. I had a feeling he was going to do it.”
Castro made a key defensive play in the top of the 10th inning, too. With the free runner at second base, he made a quick backhanded stop behind the bag on a ball hit by Bobby Witt Jr. He didn’t have a play at first so he smartly held on to the ball, keeping the runners at first and second.
Reliever Alex Lange then got Salvador Perez to pop out and Vinnie Pasquantino to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
“Those are winning plays,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Non-box score plays that are incredibly important in close games.”
There were a lot of them in the final three innings.
With a left-hander on the mound in the bottom of the 10th, Hinch had right-handed pinch-hitter Eric Haase available, but with the free runner on third after Tucker Barnhart’s sacrifice, Royals manager Mike Matheny took the bat out of his hands with an intentional walk.
Then after Greene struck out, Matheny issued another free pass, this one to Báez, to load the bases in front of Castro.
“If you want a single, Harold is going to find the outfield grass,” Hinch said.
In a lefty versus lefty matchup, Castro fell into a fast 0-2 hole. Misiewicz threw him a 93-mph fastball and an 88-mph cutter. The third pitch was a 79-mph curveball that catcher Perez was going to one knee to block. Somehow Castro was able to get his bat to it and flip it into center field.
“He does an incredible job of hanging in there,” Hinch said. “That was not an easy at-bat but he managed to get his bat on the ball and create some good fortune for himself.”
The Tigers were down 3-0 after seven innings, stymied on four singles by 38-year-old Zack Greinke, who likely made his final start at Comerica Park.
But in the bottom of the eighth against right-handed reliever Dylan Coleman, their fortunes changed — dramatically. The Tigers managed to score the three runs despite moving just one ball out of the infield.
“We’re getting rewarded for doing somethings right late in the game,” Hinch said. “That’s not a recipe for long-term success when you have to rely on the seventh, eighth and ninth. You’ve got to beat some starters, too.”
Torkelson walked to start the inning and then beat out a force-out attempt at second base, sliding into the bag just ahead of the throw from third baseman Nate Eaton.
“That’s the biggest thing I love about this game,” Torkelson said. “If I don’t have my bat I can still affect the game with my glove or my baserunning. That ball was hit slow and (Eaton) didn’t charge it that well. I knew I had a chance so I busted-butt.”
After Barnhart lined out, Akil Baddoo dropped a perfect bunt up the third-base line to load the bases.
“A little tear came down my face,” Hinch said. “I’m super proud of him. He’s been in such a good place. We’re down three and there’s two on, maybe earlier in the year he might’ve tried to do too much. But that was a very mature play. He saw the third baseman was back and dropped it down on his own.”
Greene then hit another chopper to Eaton who charged and threw home. The throw skipped and pulled catcher Perez off the plate. Torkelson was safe, 3-1.
“I just tried to get inside the base line as much as possible,” Torkelson said. “I didn’t slide. I think if I slid I would’ve been out. I think staying up affected his throw a little bit. He kind of bounced it.”
After Báez struck out, it was left again to Castro. He fell behind 1-2 and then took a 96-mph fastball up and in. He must have sniffed out that it was a set-up pitch because he was right on the next pitch, a slider away, and drove it into center field, scoring two runs and tying the game.
“That’s just him being a good hitter paying attention,” Greene said. “Winning is fun and we’re going to try to win as many as we can until the end of the season.”
The Tigers have now won four straight.