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Red-hot Castellanos rips walk-off single
Tigers' top prospect homers in another three-hit performance
06/02/2013 6:53 PM ET
Nick Castellanos has had three hits in three of his last seven games.
Nick Castellanos has had three hits in three of his last seven games. (Paul Nelson/Toledo Mud Hens)

Judging by Nick Castellanos' recent performance, it looks like he has the International League all figured out.

He admits he's getting there but said there's still tinkering to be done.

"I'm just getting accustomed to Triple-A pitching. This is the highest level I've played at. It takes a little time to adjust," Castellanos explained. "There are certain ways that the game is played at this level that I haven't seen before. It's played faster.

"Pitchers hit their spots much better. They have more pitches they can throw for strikes on any count. You have to work counts much better, be able to go deep into counts when you have to. This is stuff I'm starting to learn how to do."

The Tigers' top prospect homered, then capped another three-hit game with a walk-off single in the 10th inning on Sunday, giving Toledo a 4-3 victory over Louisville.

"The feeling is awesome, especially when you've been struggling -- the team's been struggling to get wins all year," Castellanos said after the Mud Hens celebrated a third straight win. "To get three in a row, with the third coming off as a walk-off in extra innings, is awesome."

It was the third three-hit game and fifth multi-hit effort in 10 days for MLB.com's No. 20 overall prospect. He also narrowly missed a cycle on Wednesday.

Against Louisville, he connected for a two-run shot in the fourth inning in his second at-bat against Reds No. 3 prospect Tony Cingrani, who retired Castellanos on a fly ball in the second. In each at-bat, Castellanos was looking for a fastball and got one on the first pitch.

"He has a really good fastball," Castellanos said of Cingrani, who was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in six Major League starts this year. "I was trying to see it down and not let him get ahead with it. It's tough to hit against him if you're trying to protect against the fastball and his off-speed stuff at the same time. I was just trying to think about one thing and one thing only -- hitting a fastball."

In the sixth, Castellanos got ahead 2-0, then laced Cingrani's next delivery into right field for a single. He had a suspicion he'd see another fastball in that count.

"I didn't know, but that was exactly what I was looking for," he said. "He missed in with a fastball and then threw an off-speed pitch in the dirt, so I was definitely looking for the fastball again. Why mess with what's working for you?"

Ben Guez followed with a double that scored Castellanos from first with the tying run. Castellanos likely would have been out had shortstop Kristopher Negron's relay not been off the target.

"Thankfully, the shortstop threw it kind of high," Castellanos said, "because I looked at the replay and I was out if they had made a good throw."

After the 21-year-old Florida native lined out sharply to second base in the eighth, the stage was set for his heroics in the 10th when Brandon Douglas doubled with two outs and the Bats opted to walk Jordan Lennerton intentionally to face Castellanos.

"That's the first time that's happened to me before. I think coming into that at-bat, I kind of had a little extra fire because of it," Castellanos said. "I've never been the guy they walk somebody to get to. Usually, in the past, I've been intentionally walked so they could get to somebody else. It made it a little extra special to get a hit there, to get that run in."

Castellanos, who batted .320 across two levels last seaosn, is hitting .421 over his last 10 games to get his average up to .271.

"I take it one at-bat at a time," he said. "My only goal right now is to have a good at-bat in my first at-bat against [Bats starter Armando] Galarraga tomorrow. And after that it will be for the at-bat after that one, and so on."

Cingrani struck out nine over seven innings and allowed a Minor League season-high three runs on six hits.

Reds top prospect Billy Hamilton was credited with an RBI but went 0-for-4 and was caught stealing twice for Louisville. No. 10 prospect Henry Rodriguez was 3-for-5 while Neftali Soto, who's ranked four spots behind Rodriguez, slugged a two-run homer.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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