Luis Castillo raises concern as slump continues in loss to Red Sox

In arguably his worst start since joining the Mariners, Luis Castillo saw his May slump continue with a 9-4 loss on Tuesday night in Boston.

Luis Castillo got off to an excellent start this season, among other things recording a 2-0 record and 1.82 ERA through his first six outings. There was some minor concern about a slight decrease in his velocity, but overall he was pitching around the level expected for a staff ace.

However, Castillo’s next two starts brought some concern, with him struggling — at least by his lofty standards. Unfortunately for the Mariners, it came when they needed him to be closer to his best, against the Astros and Rangers respectively.

Versus Houston, the two-time All-Star did go seven innings, but gave up four earned runs — at the time a season high — in a 6-4 loss. He followed this up by allowing a season-high eight hits and three earned runs in five innings against Texas, which proved crucial in a tight 4-3 defeat.

Still, the general sentiment was that Castillo was just in a minor slump and would rebound soon enough. Then Tuesday night happened.

Castillo blitzed early against the Red Sox

In what was arguably the 30-year-old’s worst outing in a Mariners uniform, the Red Sox got to him early with four runs in the opening inning. While it wasn’t all his fault — for example, a mistake by Kotlen Wong on what should have been a routine ground ball out — this was still a poor start by the pitcher.

Castillo did manage to overcome this early adversity and settle down, as you’d anticipate from someone of his talent and experience. He retired 10 of the next 11 batters he faced, allowing just the one walk.

In addition, the Mariners’ bats finally got going with a four-run blitz of their own in the top of the fourth inning. Teoscar Hernandez and Taylor Trammell both had two RBI, to tie the game at 4-4.

However, Castillo then had his second collapse of the game, in the bottom of the fifth. The Red Sox scored three further runs to take the lead for good, at 7-4.

This also proved to be the end of Castillo’s day, with the five innings equaling his shortest start of the season. When it was all said and done, he had allowed six hits and seven runs (five earned), which were his most as a Mariner.

Perhaps most worrying, the Dominican Republic native matched a career-worst in allowing three home runs versus Boston. For context, he had allowed three homers total for the season entering the night, although two had come in his previous two starts, alluding to his recent slump.

Castillo spoke to the media about what happened, after the game. Through his interpreter, he said:

“Boston’s already an aggressive team. It was a bad night like any other athlete has. Unfortunately, today was my turn.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais backed up the assessment about Boston’s attacking mentality. He said:

“They were really aggressive in the first inning and right on Luis on basically whatever he was throwing up there. He (also) left some pitches in the middle of the plate, but they were after him and attacking him.”

May a bad month in general for Castillo

As much as Castillo is right to say all athletes have bad nights, it doesn’t change the reality he has struggled in May during his three starts. In 17 combined innings, he has allowed 19 hits and 14 runs — including 12 earned, for a 6.35 ERA — with, most importantly, all three games ending in losses for Seattle.

So what’s wrong with the righty? We’ve already referenced the dip in this velocity this year, albeit it has recovered to a certain extent of late.

Regardless, this has coincided with Castillo giving up more hard contact than usual. Yes he’s played some of the top hitting teams recently, but as the staff ace, he is expected to be better than most against the likes of Boston and Texas.

It doesn’t help that the former Red has also been struggling a bit with his location. Combine this with more mistakes than usual for him, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Servais discussed this in respect of the Red Sox game specifically. He said:

“(Castillo) has left some pitches in the middle. He’s one of those guys who can get away with it once in a while, because he’s so deceptive and his delivery is so different. Against a quality ballclub like (Boston though), with all of the left-handed bats, you can’t make too many mistakes in the middle of the plate. And that’s what he did early in the game.”

What should Mariners fans expect moving forward?

This leads to the question of if this slump by Castillo is a short-term issue, or something more serious to be concerned about? You want to believe it’s the former, given who we’re talking (writing) about here.

In addition, it’s not as if this is the first career slump for a player with credible ambitions of winning a Cy Young award. Each time he has always recovered, as he should do this time around too.

From Castillo’s perspective at least, he remains fully confident in himself. He said:

“I feel great. Like I said, not every night is the same. I feel like every time I go out, I try to give my 100 percent with what I have. But the most important thing right now is that I thank God that I’m healthy.”

As much as those words will provide some reassurance for Mariners fans, only a upturn in Castillo’s form will erode any concern. If anything else he has a golden opportunity to bounce back in his next start, scheduled for next Monday at home to the lowly Oakland Athletics.

What’s your take on the current slump by Luis Castillo? Do you have any concern, or do you see him returning to his usual dominant form sooner than later? Let us know in the comments section below.

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