Castillo closes out ALCS win over Houston

by Gary Shelton on October 12, 2020

in general

Castillo earned his second save in a row./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

Somewhere along the line, between the explosive fastball and the nasty slider, he has earned your trust. Somehow, these days you figure that Diego Castillo will save the day.


Oh, it hasn't always been so. There have been shaky nights for Castillo, nights when his performance didn't quite match his efforts, nights when you didn't want to see him for a second inning.

But, like a lot of arms in one of the game's finest bullpens, Castillo has grown into his role.

Sunday night, Castillo saved his second game in 48 hours, enabling the Rays to hold on to beat the Houston Astros 2-1 in the first game of the American League

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Championship series. Castillo, who closed out the Yankees on Friday night, got out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the eighth (his only pitch was turned into a double play), then closed out the Houston Astros in the ninth, striking out the dangerous Jose Altuve with the tying run on second to the end the game.

It was a victory that allowed a good start to the series against Houston, the team that beat the Rays in the ALDS a year ago.

Castillo's heroics were welcome, because neither Nick Anderson nor Pete Fairbanks were available to pitch. But the Rays turned into escape artists Sunday night, a pair of double play balls saving them from a surge from the Astros.

"It's always good news when (Castillo) gives me the thumbs up," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said.

This time, it was really good news.

“Man, he’s a stud," said Cash. "It was just a remarkable performance. He really benefitted with the double-play ball on one pitch. He was the one that was available between Pete, Nick and himself.

"We felt he could give us an inning, but it went so quick. I don’t think Diego would have been happy to come out of the game. I'm so appreciative of his effort, the way he’s able to to bounce back and make these filthy pitches to unbelievable hitters. "

Batters hit only .156 off of Castillo this season, but he didn't get his first save (of four) until August 17. But he has now pitched five times in the playoffs, and he has given up two hits and no runs.

"The job he did, it sums up his whole year," Zunino said. "He stepped up big for us. He’s been throwing a lot in some big situations. showing what he’s made out of. It says a lot about what those guys in the bullpen have done all year."

As a whole, the bullpen threw another four innings of shutout baseball, this time with Ryan Thompson, John Curtiss and Aaron Loup. Blake Snell started and wasn't sharp, but he allowed only one run through five innings.

Loupe was the only mistake. Cash inserted him into the game after several days off, and he hit a batter, walked one and allowed a single as he registered only one out.

The win was the 16th victory of the year by one run by the Rays. More and more, close games seem to be their natural habitat, and the sight of a close scoreboard doesn't faze them.

"I feel we have (a knack for winning close games)," Cash said. "The guys in our clubhouse feel we have it. The one thing you learn with this club,... we’re in a lot  of tight ballgames. Tight ballgames are going to teach you .... you have to teach yourselves a little bit how to win those. That’s (by playing) mistake-free. clean, doing things that don’t  allow the extra 90 feet or the extra baserunner. The last two wins we’ve won 2-1 and there’s no margin for error."

The Rays themselves didn't do a lot of hitting. They managed just six hits (they have 12 in their last three games), but one of those was Randy Arozarena's fourth homer of the season. Another was a scoring single by catcher Mike Zunino, who drove in Willy Adames in the fifth.

"I really can’t (explain Arozarena)," Cash said. "I wish I could. I don’t know if I want to get in the way of it now. He doesn’t know any of the guys. But he’s locked in and timed up. Randy’s been as bright as any player in this postseason in MLB."

The Rays continue their best-of-seven series today at 4:07 p.m. in San Diego. Charlie Morton will start for the Rays against Lance McCullers (from Tampa Jesuit).

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