Castillo, the Miami Marlins Pitcher of the Year last season for Jacksonville, led the Blue Wahoos as he tied his career-high strikeouts with 10 in the, 5-2, victory Thursday over the Jumbo Shrimp in front of 3,998 at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
After giving up a solo home run and two singles in the first inning, Castillo hit a batter, walked one and allowed a double over the next four innings. The right-hander, who MLB Pipeline.com ranks as the Cincinnati Reds No. 7 prospect, also tied his career-high with 10 strikeouts in five innings of work, striking out the side in the fourth inning.
After five no-decisions and three losses, Castillo improved to 2-3 with a 3.00 ERA on the season. He said pitching against his former team and in front of seven executives from the Cincinnati Reds organization, including GM Dick Williams, put a little extra juice in his fastball that consistently hits the high 90-mph range.
"It is definitely more significant to play my former team," the Dominican Republic prospect said through interpreter catcher Adrian Nieto. "I know how hard they work and it makes me bring my A game."
Pensacola manager Pat Kelly said there was talk over the winter about putting Castillo in the bullpen. But coaches have been working with him to improve his slider.
"He has been working so hard on his slider," Kelly said. "As a three-pitch pitcher, he has a chance to be a starter. Starters are more valuable than relievers."
He said despite Castillo being 6-2, 195 pounds, he is solid, which allows him to have a plus-fastball.
"In the fifth inning, he was throwing his best fastball," Kelly said. "He's a skinny little guy at 195 pounds but he's a lot stronger than people think."
Castillo said he hopes Thursday's performance sparks more wins for him.
"It feels great to turn things around," he said. "I'm hoping to continue to win a couple of ball games and pitch a couple of good outings in a row."
Jacksonville second baseman KC Serna smoked his second homer in two games in the first inning to put the Jumbo Shrimp ahead, 1-0. He now has three homers in 31 games.
Pensacola tied it up, 1-1, in the bottom of the first on back-to-back doubles by left fielder Tyler Goeddel and Gabriel Guerrero.
Blue Wahoos catcher Joe Hudson smacked a one hop double off the left field wall to drive in second baseman Angelo Gumbs, putting Pensacola in front, 2-1, in the second inning. With two outs and runners on second and third base, Guerrero hit a bases-clearing single to left field that drove in shortstop Blake Trahan and Hudson to put Pensacola on top, 4-1.
Guerrero was 2-4 - his 20th multi-hit game of the year - and drove in three of the Blue Wahoos five runs Thursday.
"He has a nice two-strike approach," Kelly said. "In the past, he was more of a free swinger. He's trying to put the ball in play. He's not worried about power. He's not trying to hit home runs."
The Jumbo Shrimp, who came back from five runs down and again from four runs down the previous game to win, added a run in the sixth inning on Pensacola reliever Alex Powers when right fielder John Norwood crushed a triple that rolled to the fence in the right center gap and scored when left fielder Cal Towey hit a shot to center to cut Pensacola's lead to, 4-2.
In the very next inning, Jacksonville loaded the bases with two outs to chase Powers from the game. Pensacola reliever Geoff Broussard entered and earned two quick strikes on Norwood and then threw three balls for a full count. After two foul balls, Broussard struck Norwood out to end the scoring threat.
Kelly said Broussard was tired after throwing 1.1 innings of relief the game before.
"That's the ballgame. There was no room for error," Kelly said.
Herget, who also pitched Wednesday and gave up the game-winning homer, earned his Southern League-leading 14th save Thursday.
"It's good for them," Kelly said about pitching in consecutive games. "That's what they are going to have to do in the big leagues."
Pensacola did add an insurance run when first baseman Angelo Gumbs scored for the second time in the game on a passed ball in the bottom of the eighth inning for a, 5-2, Blue Wahoos lead.
The Blue Wahoos lead the series, 2-1, over the Jumbo Shrimp. The club is 30-23 and in first place in the Southern League South Division where they've been in all but six days this season.
Pensacola reliever Domingo Tapia was called up Thursday to Triple-A Louisville Bats. In one start and 14 relief appearances, Tapia posted a 2-2 record with one save, 2.86 ERA and 36 Ks in 28.1 innings.
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos host the fourth game of the five-game series against the Miami Marlins Double-A affiliate Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp at 6:35 p.m. Friday, June 2. The Jumbo Shrimp starter is LHP Mike Kickham (1-3, 2.91) against the Blue Wahoos RHP Deck McGuire (5-2, 2.76).
The games are broadcast live on the Blue Wahoos flagship station 97.1 The Ticket. Listen for free at bluewahoos.com and by using the TuneIn Radio app on your mobile, desktop or home devices.
You can watch the home games delayed on Cox Sports Television Monday through Thursday on Channel 319. Friday, Saturday and Sunday games are broadcast live on BLAB-TV.
BIG FISH Center fielder Gabriel Guerrero 2-4 with a double and three RBIs. It was his 20th multi-hit game…Second baseman/first baseman Angelo Gumbs 4-4 with a double and two runs scored…Catcher Joe Hudson 1-3 double, walk and drove in a run…Shortstop Blake Trahan 2-4, bunt single, run scored.
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