It's been two seasons since Rusney Castillo appeared in a Major League game, but it's certainly not for lack of effort or production.
The Red Sox outfielder collected a career-high five hits in Triple-A Pawtucket's 7-4 loss to Louisville on Tuesday night at McCoy Stadium. Castillo doubled twice, stole a base and scored two runs in the fourth multi-hit effort in his last 11 games.
Video: Pawtucket's Castillo singles for his fifth hit
Coupled with his two-double, three-hit performance on Sunday, the 30-year-old has gone 8-for-10 to raise his average 24 points to .312.
"More than anything else, he's staying on the ball and swinging at pitches in the strike zone," Pawtucket hitting coach Rich Gedman said. "He's not expanding the zone much and he's staying within himself."
Castillo singled to left field in the first inning and led off the fourth with a double to right before scoring on Mike Ohlman's single. He notched his second consecutive three-hit game with a leadoff single to right in the sixth. The Cuba native swiped second, took third on a throwing error by catcher Chadwick Tromp and scored on Adam Lind's two-run homer. Castillo ripped his second double of the night -- and fourth in two games -- to right in the seventh. He completed the first five-hit game of his career with a single to center in the ninth.
Gameday box score
It marked the third game in which Castillo has amassed at least four hits and his first since Aug. 16, also against Louisville. He's batting .500 (9-for-18) with four doubles and a homer this month to bring his slash line up to .312/.332/.423 in 51 games.
"He's always used the whole field well but had trouble with the ball in," Gedman said. "He's done a really nice job defending that spot to the point where the pitcher can't live there anymore. He's understanding his own strike zone more, even though he doesn't walk as much as I'd like him to. But he's not trying to force anything up there and competes every single at-bat."
The Red Sox signed Castillo to a seven-year Major League deal on Aug. 23, 2014 and he made his debut in The Show less than a month later during a 10-game cameo late in the season. He batted .253/.288/.359 in 80 games with Boston the following year and broke camp with the big club in 2016, appearing in eight games before returning to the PawSox. The 2017 International League All-Star has not been back to Fenway Park since.
"Rusney prepares like he's a Major Leaguer," Gedman said. "He does a really nice job with his daily work on and off the field. He's faithful to his weight training and pays attention to his diet. Everything he does he does with maturity and does so as if he was in the bigs. It's refreshing to be around someone like him because there are some reasons why he could be disappointed he's not [in the Majors]. He loves life, works hard and performs on the field."
Castillo enjoyed the best year of his professional career in 2017, hitting .314/.350/.507 with 15 homers and 43 RBIs during an injury-plagued campaign in which he appeared in 87 games.
Lind fell a triple shy of the cycle and drove in two runs, while Oscar Hernandez, Mike Miller and Ohlman collected two hits apiece for Pawtucket.
Reliever Kyle Martin (3-2) took the loss after giving up four runs on six hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings.
Video: Louisville's Senzel doubles in two insurance runs
Tromp had three hits, including a homer and a double, and three RBIs for Louisville. Top Reds prospect Nick Senzel stroked a two-run double to help make a winner of reliever Tanner Rainey (1-1). Cincinnati's 26th-ranked prospect allowed an unearned run, one hit and a walk with two strikeouts in one inning.
Kevin Quackenbush worked around a pair of singles while fanning two in the ninth to earn his eighth save.