O’s Cas­tro pitches into 4th in­ning in 1st start

22-year-old could give strug­gling Ori­oles some op­tions for next season

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - SPORTS - By Ed­uardo A. Encina

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – One start doesn’t equal a fair eval­u­a­tion for a pitcher mak­ing his first ma­jor league start, espe­cially given the sce­nario in which right-han­der

made his start­ing de­but, but the 22-year-old’s per­for­mance def­i­nitely wasn’t as clean as the pol­ished re­lief pitch­ing that earned him ro­ta­tion con­sid­er­a­tion.

Cas­tro, whose emer­gence as a mul­ti­plein­ning re­liever sur­faced a hid­den gem, lasted just three bat­ters into the fourth in­ning in the Ori­oles’ 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, send­ing them to their 18th de­feat in 22 games.

The Ori­oles (75-86) used their sec­ond-last game of the season to catch a glimpse of Cas­tro (3-3) in a start­ing role. He al­lowed seven base run­ners and twice stranded two run­ners on be­fore al­low­ing a three-run homer to in the fourth that es­sen­tially ended his night.

“[He was] OK, he got a lit­tle tired,” Ori­oles man­ager said of Cas­tro. “I’m not sure. He worked through a lot of trou­ble. It wasn’t like it was an un­scathed first three in­nings. It was a good step for him. We’ll see if he can build on it, give us some op­tions as he goes for­ward.”

Whether Cas­tro will have a chance to earn a ro­ta­tion spot come spring re­mains to be seen, but his first start did ex­pose some of his weak­nesses, in­clud­ing a slow time to the plate that hurt him hold­ing run­ners and an un­timely wild pitch in the Rays’ three-run fourth.

“Dif­fer­ent look,” Showal­ter said. “Dif­fer­ent pre­sen­ta­tion. You watch him dur­ing the course of a day pre­par­ing for a start. There wasn’t a whole lot of change in him. He’s a pretty un­der-con­trol guy. He likes to com­pete. He’s a smart guy. He knows what’s going on and we cer­tainly don’t draw a lot of at­ten­tion to it for him. It’s lit­tle things like times to the plate. He fluc­tu­ates all over the place. It’s some­thing that he’s got to do a bet­ter job with be­fore they get here. This is a tough place to be teach­ing peo­ple to be per­fect to the plate. That stuff’s got to start in [Short-A] Aberdeen.”

With the de­feat, the Ori­oles will end the season hav­ing lost their last five road se­ries, and 12 of their last 14 games away from Cam­den Yards overall. They are just 2-8-1 in road se­ries since the All-Star break.

Cas­tro needed just 11 pitches to get through the first in­ning, but then dodged dam­age in the sec­ond and third in­nings. He put two run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion with one out in the sec­ond in­ning on sin­gle and dou­ble, but Ori­oles first base­man cut down Dick­er­son at home on a grounder by Miller to erase the lead run­ner. Cas­tro struck out

to es­cape the in­ning. In the third, a lead­off sin­gle by

a fielder’s choice by and a one-out walk to put two on. Kier­maier stole third to put run­ners at the cor­ners, but Cas­tro struck out and in­duced an in­ning-end­ing fly­out off the bat of

Cas­tro then al­lowed back-to-back sin­gles to Dick­er­son and Hechavar­ria to open the fourth, and both run­ners moved into scor­ing po­si­tion on a wild pitch be­fore Miller put a 2-2 slider deep into the right-field stands.

Miller en­tered the night hit­ting just .198 on the season and had just one homer over his pre­vi­ous 22 games.

“I was trying to lo­cate the ball low in the zone through­out the whole game,” Cas­tro said through trans­la­tor “Ob­vi­ously there was one pitch which he took ad­van­tage of it. After that, I just tried to com­pete again.”

Cas­tro, who posted a 2.38 ERA in his first 32 re­lief ap­pear­ances this season span­ning 53 in­nings, ended the season al­low­ing 12 earned runs in 131⁄3 in­nings over his final seven games. Ori­oles of­fense ral­lies late: The Ori­oles ral­lied late, bring­ing the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth after be­ing held score­less through the first seven in­nings.

Trail­ing 4-2 in the ninth, the Ori­oles put run­ners at the cor­ners with no outs against Rays closer after sec­ond dou­ble of the night led off the in­ning, fol­lowed by sin­gle. Pinch hit­ter struck out,

sac fly to cen­ter scored Hardy to make it 4-3 and

sink­ing line drive to cen­ter was caught by Kier­maier to end the game.

“When­ever we get some­thing rolling, it’s a good sign, espe­cially off the cal­iber of pitcher that Colomé is,” Sisco said. “Just trying to put good at-bats to­gether and try to string some­thing to­gether.” End­ing the drought: two-run sin­gle in the eighth, which came off former Ori­oles re­liever scored the vis­i­tors’ first runs in 23 in­nings. The Ori­oles hadn’t scored a run since putting up three in the sec­ond in­ning of Wed­nes­day’s 5-3 loss at the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates.

Rays right-han­der tossed five score­less in­nings, al­low­ing just two hits and strik­ing out six, in­clud­ing strik­ing out the side in the sec­ond in­ning. The Ori­oles’ only ex­tra-base hit off him came in the sec­ond in­ning on Hardy’s dou­ble.

The Ori­oles brought the ty­ing run to the on-deck cir­cle with one out in the eighth after Ál­varez’s hit, but ended the in­ning by bounc­ing into a 4-5-3 dou­ble play.

“I think it was as much that they were mak­ing some mis­takes and we were do­ing some­thing with them,” Showal­ter said. “Archer’s got what, 200 in­nings? One of the best pitch­ers in the league, and we didn’t do a whole lot off him to cre­ate very many op­por­tu­ni­ties.” Rays test Sisco: The Rays stole four bases against Sisco, who was mak­ing his fourth ma­jor league start.

“We can do a lit­tle bet­ter job throw­ing, in throw­ing them out, but Chance did a good job,” Showal­ter said. “He threw the guy out at third. We just didn’t make the play. Those are the lit­tle things that get mag­ni­fied [in a first start] some­what when you’re start­ing be­cause you’re seeing a lot more hit­ters and guys have a bet­ter feel for you.” Sisco is 0-for-5 throw­ing out base run­ners. “I feel re­ally com­fort­able back there,” Sisco said. “Just trying to put a good throw down there to sec­ond or third base, wher­ever they’re trying to run, and give us the best shot to throw them out.” Hit­ting streak ends: Ori­oles left fielder

had his hit­ting streak end at 17 after he went 0-for-2 with two walks Satur­day.

Mancini’s streak was the long­est by a rookie in Ori­oles his­tory.

BRIAN BLANCO/GETTY IM­AGES

Tampa Bay’s Brad Miller watches his three-run homer in front of Ori­oles catcher Chance Sisco dur­ing the fourth in­ning. Miller brought a halt to Miguel Cas­tro’s first ma­jor league start. Cas­tro opened the night with three shutout in­nings be­fore strug­gling in the fourth.

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