Once again, Starlin Castro found himself in the middle of it all.
Castro ran to home plate, flipped off his helmet and headed straight to the celebration off first base, where Julio Borbon got mobbed after his two-out, pinch-hit single finally gave the Cubs a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Those 14 innings on Thursday at Wrigley Field showed Castro’s range, why he always seems to be the center of attention.
Castro led off the 14th by working a 3-2 count and hitting Jonathan Broxton’s 94 mph fastball right back up the middle. Castro stole second and scored when Borbon lined a ball through the hole into left field. Borbon hadn’t hit one since batting practice that morning, loosening up in the weight room with a few swings.
“It’s my first walk-off,” Borbon said, “so it definitely was worth the wait.”
The Cubs (26-38) had set a franchise record by losing 12 straight games to the Reds (40-27) at Wrigley Field. This game lasted five hours and seven minutes and the two teams combined to use 14 pitchers. They sung “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” twice, first with NBC/Blackhawks analyst Ed Olczyk, then with Cubs announcers Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies.
“We know what we’re dealing with,” said Jeff Samardzija, who gave up five runs on 10 hits and four walks in six innings. “(The Reds) have a great bullpen, good starting pitching and a great lineup one through nine. You know you’re in for a fight with those guys and you expect that every time they come in.”
Castro, who quickly left the clubhouse postgame as the Cubs packed up for a road trip through New York and St. Louis, would have had to answer questions about his defense if Hector Rondon hadn’t bailed him out.
The Rule 5 pick notched three strikeouts in the 14th inning, working around Castro’s second throwing error of the game and a Jay Bruce single. Overall, the Cubs bullpen combined to throw eight scoreless innings.
Castro almost won it with one swing in the ninth inning. He stood at home plate, admiring the flight of a ball that would bounce off the ivy and not clear the left-field fence. He wound up with a double anyway.
“He’s being aggressive up there and his outs have been coming by missing the ball just a little bit,” Samardzija said. “Today it kind of came full circle and those good swings and those good approaches at the plate have turned into some hits for him. Any other day, that’s a walk-off home run there for him. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing in about 30 (mph). That kind of snubbed him.”
No one in the clubhouse gets instantly over analyzed like Castro, who went 3-for-7 to raise his average to .243. Moving Castro back to the No. 2 spot paid off for manager Dale Sveum, who will keep getting questions about his All-Star shortstop.
“That was by far, obviously, the best day he’s had all year,” Sveum said. “He crushed that ball. That was a shame. We’d have been in New York by now.”