The temperature improved by about 40 degrees from Opening Day to Wednesday. Luis Castillo showed just as big an improvement in his second start of the season for the Cincinnati Reds.
Castillo threw seven shutout innings as the Reds completed a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates with an 11-4 victory at Great American Ball Park. He allowed four hits and struck out five.
“It feels phenomenal,” Castillo said. “We didn’t strike out as many as we wanted to, but we’ll take it. It was a good performance today.”
Castillo allowed eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings six days earlier as the Reds lost 11-6 to the St. Louis Cardinals. They have since won five straight games. While the hitters have earned the headlines by scoring a big-league best 57 runs, the pitchers have done their parts.
Castillo followed Tyler Mahle, Jeff Hoffman, Jose De Leon and Wade Miley. All of them have lasted at least five innings, and none of them have allowed more than two earned runs. Castillo retired the first six batters he faced and didn’t get into trouble until the fourth when Jonathan India threw out Wilmer Difo at home to keep the shutout alive.
“I thought right from the beginning, he had an excellent fastball,” Reds manager David Bell said. “The velocity was there. He really attacked the hitters. He was ahead most of the day.”
Castillo got plenty of support from the Reds offense, which gave him a 5-0 lead in the first inning.
“It’s incredible just to see these guys hit,” Castillo said. “This team has been amazing to watch.”
Late runs: The Reds had a shutout until the ninth. Reliever Amir Garrett made his second appearance of the season and allowed the first three batters to reach. Then Erik Gonzalez hit a grand slam.
Garrett stayed on the mound and retired the next three batters, the last two by strikeout, to end the game.
Looking ahead: The Reds will spend their first off day of the season in Arizona on Thursday before starting a three-game series against the Diamondbacks at 9:45 p.m. Friday. Mahle (1-0, 3.60 ERA) will start the opener.
“We’re on a roll,” said Mahle before the game Wednesday, “and it’s fun to play baseball right now. I think everyone’s itching either to get on the mound or get out to the plate.”
Mahle earned the victory Saturday in his first start of the season as the Reds beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-6. He allowed two earned runs, both on solo home runs by Paul DeJong.
“I would like to have had located my fastball a little better,” Mahle said. “That could have been adrenaline. So maybe I was trying to do too much. I think if my fastball location, especially up and in to righties, is a little better, that game is a little different. Maybe I don’t give up the two home runs. I want to stay where I’m at, but I also want to tighten the screws.”
Roster news: The Reds announced a five-man taxi squad for the series in Arizona: pitchers Heath Hembree and Art Warren; outfielder Mark Payton; infielder Max Schrock; and catcher Beau Taylor.
Tuesday’s game: The Reds beat the Pirates 14-1 on Tuesday night. Tyler Naquin went 3-for-4 with seven RBIs, tying Brandon Phillips, who had seven RBIs on July 30, 2015, against the Pirates, for most RBIs by a leadoff batter since the statistic became official in 1920.
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