The Reds mustered one run and five hits against Cleveland starter Aaron Civale during his seven innings and his record is 5- 0.
That made it necessary for the Reds to win Sunday afternoon’s game to claim the Ohio Cup, a trinket the Reds haven’t owned since 2014.
Castillo’s record dipped to 1-4 as his earned run average continues to climb like an Arizona thermometer in August. It is now at 6.42. And the Reds have lost six of his seven starts.
An indicator that something is amiss with Castillo is his strikeout ratio. The last two years he averaged more than 11 strikeouts a game. This season he is averaging seven and recorded only two Saturday night.
His strikeout pitch, his swing-and-miss pitch, is his much-heralded change-up. But it is MIA.
“What I’ve seen is about 70 percent of my pitches are staying in the (hitting) zone,” said Castillo. “For me, I’m definitely noticing that and I’m focusing on that, too. I’m trying to itch lower so that we can get more swings and misses and more ground balls.”
Castillo insists he is close to locking in, close to return to his glory days.
“I think we’re close,” he said. “The reason why is that we know what is going on, know what’s wrong, and we know we can fix it. We’re definitely close and we’ll be there soon.”
Former Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo, making a cameo appearance as a radio color commentator, described what he is seeing from Castillo.
“His command is a little off and he isn’t pitching inside,” said Arroyo, who won 109 games in nine seasons with the Reds. “He is too predictable. His velocity is OK. His mojo is a little down and tonight a couple of errors put him in a hole. When you’re struggling, that makes it even more difficult to climb out of a hole.”
The game began for Castillo the way it has so often this year, damage in the first inning.
The Indians scored a run in the first on a walk and a two-out double by Eddie Rosario. At the point, Castillo had given up 24 runs and 15 came in the first inning.
Cleveland scored a run in the second without a hit. After a walk, left fielder Tyler Naquin dropped a fly ball and a run scored on a sacrifice fly by Andres Gimenez to make it 2-0.
The Reds stranded two runners with two outs in the second. The filled the bases with one out in the third but scored only one run on a sacrifice fly by Mike Moustakas.
All four wheels went flat in the fourth when the Indians scored four times, but should have scored only one.
Three straight one-out hits made it 3-1. Gimenez hit a double-play grounder to first, a double play that would have ended the inning. But shortstop Kyle Farmer dropped Moustakas’ throw to load the bases.
Cesar Hernandez pulled a three-run triple to the right field corner to make it 6-1. Castillo had Hernandez 0-and-2, threw a couple of balls, then that pesky change-up didn’t cooperate and three runs on one swing happened.
“We got him early in the count, 0-and-2, and we were trying to throw something that would induce a ground ball to get a double play. That was goal right there,” said Castillo.
The goal was missed.
“That change-up, like I said, my change-ups are staying in the zone and he made good contact on it,” he said.
The Indians added three more in the sixth against Ryan Hendrix, who hadn’t given up a run all year. Jose Ramirez produced a two-run double and Franmil Reyes added a run-scoring single.
The Indians (18-15) have won six of their last seven and the Reds once again failed to scramble over .500 and are 15-16.
Manager David Bell, who always covers his players’ backs, says he is confident Castillo will soon snap-to-it.
“There is no concern level, there is just more of trying to figure out if Luis needs help in what adjustments he can make,” said Bell. “He is so talented, he is working. That’s a great formula to get through it and he will. We’ll do everything we can to help support him and make it happen as quickly as possible.”
If Castillo is right and he knows what he is doing wrong and that it is fixable, it shouldn’t take long.