In the first game that Cincinnati Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos played in front of a home crowd at Great American Ball Park, he skipped down the first base line in the bottom of the third inning.
Castellanos introduced himself to the fan base with a two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Day in April. In the second game of the year, Castellanos raced home on a passed ball, slid into home plate and flexed over the opposing pitcher.
All season, many of Castellanos’ most memorable moments have come against the Cardinals. On Wednesday at Great American Ball Park, Castellanos did it again. He had the Reds first six RBI of the game to lead the Reds to a 12-2 win in the second game of a split doubleheader in front of a crowd of 10,892.
After the game, Castellanos was asked what it’s been like playing against the Reds’ rival all season.
“It’s fun, it gives me an extra edge,” Castellanos said. “I’m naturally a happy person, but then for the moments I am (upset) for whatever reason, it’s amazing how I am able to lock it in. Riddle me that.”
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Castellanos has hit better against St. Louis this season than any team in the division with a 1.133 OPS entering Wednesday's game. He gave the Reds an early lead with a 375-foot homer to left field. Then in the second inning, Castellanos crushed a 404-foot grand slam to center. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Castellanos became the first Reds player with six RBI in the first two innings of a game since the RBI became an official stat in 1920.
In a game the Reds entered on a four-game losing streak, Castellanos broke the Reds out of their rut.
“The way the last couple of games have gone, it was big to regain the momentum,” said Reds starting pitcher Sonny Gray, who allowed two runs in five innings. “The guys came back and jumped right (in the first inning) and then the second inning rolls around and that was that. It was awesome to watch, it was awesome to be a part of.”
After Castellanos gave the Reds a 6-1 lead with his grand slam, Cardinals manager Mike Schildt asked the umpires to examine Castellanos’ bat. The Reds All-Star right fielder had used a chipped bat during the entire series, but Schildt didn’t protest it until Castellanos’ grand slam.
Castellanos had to give up his bat after his second homer, but he had already given the Reds a big enough lead to win their first game of the three-game series against St. Louis.
“(Schildt) is trying to do anything that he can to make his team have the best chance to win, right?” Castellanos said. “Today was making them check a bat that drove in six runs that put (the Reds) ahead … I decided to give the dangerous piece of lumber to some lucky kid that was sitting above the dugout so at the end of the day, everybody wins.”
Crew chief Phil Cuzzi said that Castellanos’ home run counting was never in question, but Castellanos couldn’t use the bat because of a “safety thing.” Castellanos joked that the bat was “dangerous,” but all it broke was the Reds four-game losing streak.
“Nick swung the bat well today, it’s been like that all year,” Reds first baseman Joey Votto said. “Those bases loaded situations are not easy as a hitter, and at times, you can get a little over-anxious and fall into the pitcher’s trap. But he ended up putting a good swing on a pitch and scoring four runs for us.”
While the Reds lost the first game of the doubleheader on Wednesday, they pulled back a half-game ahead of the San Diego Padres in the NL wild card standings by winning the second game of the doubleheader. The Reds also took a 2 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals, who have crept into contention for the second wild card spot.
“It’s nice to get results, and at times during the year, it’s more challenging than others,” Reds manager David Bell said. “That’s why I think tonight’s game even though it’s one game, sometimes they’re a little more important than others. Tonight was one of those nights.”