PENSACOLA, Fla., - Baseball experts may want to rethink sticking Pensacola Blue Wahoos hurler Luis Castillo in the bullpen.
All he did Tuesday was throw a two-hitter over eight scoreless innings, walk one and strike out a career-high 13 as Pensacola beat the Mississippi Braves, 5-0, in front of 3,989 at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
The Blue Wahoos captured the series, 4-1, by earning its eighth shutout of the season. It was Pensacola's seventh consecutive series win, which ties a franchise record.
Pensacola manager Pat Kelly said the pitching coach Danny Darwin is good at teaching the slider, which Castillo attested to after Tuesday's game through Blue Wahoos catcher Adrian Nieto who served as the interpreter for the Dominican right-hander.
"He's been traded a couple times and we wonder why?" Kelly said. "The Marlins told us they didn't think he was a starter that he was a reliever. That (slider) is going to make the difference. He can start in any league."
Castillo laughed and said "hands down" that he wants to be a starter, not a reliever. The Cincinnati Reds picked him up from the Miami Marlins in January after he was named that organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2016.
"I'm very happy about it," he said about his outing Tuesday. "I felt locked in from the beginning with all my pitches working. I was very focused on having a good outing."
Castillo, ranked by MLB Pipeline.com as the seventh best prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization, struck out five hitters in a row at one point. Pensacola's record for strikeouts in a game is 15, which Tony Cingrani did June 27, 2012 against the Jackson Generals.
The 24-year-old Castillo, who retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced, won his third start in a row to improve to 4-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.68.
In his last three starts, Castillo has now struck out 31 and walked four over 19 innings. He jumped from 11th in strikeouts in the Southern League to fifth with 76 total this season.
Castillo displayed hitting and running skills, too. He is 3-14 this season and scored his first run of the year. He knocked a ground ball back up the middle -- the second hit off of Mississippi starter Luiz Gohara -- and hustled from second to score on a single slapped into right field by third baseman Josh VanMeter to give Penacola a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning.
"He's deceptively very athletic," Kelly said. "People don't realize it. But he runs well shagging balls in the outfield (during batting practice)."
Pensacola ended up batting around in the fifth inning to go ahead, 3-0, getting three walks and two singles. Blue Wahoos center fielder Gabriel Guerrero hit a tapper to shortstop and left fielder Tyler Goeddel beat the throw to home for the second run. The final run in the fifth came when VanMeter scored when second baseman Alex Blandino walked with the bases loaded.
The Blue Wahoos added two more runs in the seventh inning when left-handed hitting first baseman Eric Jagielo jacked a two-run shot to the opposite field. He now has five home runs and 19 RBIs on the season.
Mississippi's Gohara, who is from Tupa, Brazil, earned the loss to fall to 0-1 in his fourth start in Double-A. The 20-year-old, who Baseball America ranked the No. 3 prospect last year in the Seattle Mariners organization, gave up three runs on three hits and four walks in 4.1 innings and struck out three.
Mississippi couldn't generate any runs off the Blue Wahoos pitching staff in the five-game series, which featured MLB rehab starts by Cincinnati Reds starters Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan. The scored six runs in five games.
One key was keeping the hot-hitting 19-year-old Mississippi outfielder Ronald Acuna off the bases. He entered the series batting .354 but went 2-20 and struck out 10 times as the Blue Wahoos pitching pounded fastballs outside. His average fell to .316.
Pensacola, which has the top team ERA in the Southern League at 2.79, travel to play the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp for the last five-game series of the first half.
The Blue Wahoos are 38-27 and are up four games with five to go in the Southern League South Division. Pensacola hopes to clinch the first half crown and join the Tennessee Smokies who won four consecutive halves from 2009 to 2011.
"These guys have worked exceptionally hard," Kelly said about his team that he has coached the past three years. "I think they deserve it."
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos finish the first half of the Southern League season with a five-game series against the Miami Marlins Double-A affiliate the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp at 6:05 p.m. CST Wednesday. The Jumbo Shrimp starter is RHP Mike Kickham (3-3, 2.43) against the Blue Wahoos RHP Keury Mella (1-4, 4.74).
Because Pensacola scored five runs Tuesday, online orders are 50 percent off at Papa John's with the code word WAHOOS.
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 First baseman Eric Jagielo went 1-3 with a two-run homer to left field...Second baseman Alex Blandino was 1-3, knocking his Southern League-leading 21st double and had an RBI...Pitcher Luis Castillo hit a single up the middle and scored a run and is hitting .214 on the year.
Tickets to the 2017 Southern League All-Star Game are on sale now! Purchase tickets online at bluewahoos.com or visiting the Box Office. Orders can also be placed over the phone by calling 850-934-8444. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the Double-A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and a member of the Southern League. Follow the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at BlueWahoos.com, facebook.com/PensacolaBlueWahoos and twitter.com/BlueWahoosBBall.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.