You hate to see careless media narratives borne out on the field, but Starlin Castro just keeps living up to the detractors who say he doesn’t hustle and just doesn’t care enough. Case in point: after his team had battled for 11 innings, he decided he had had enough and simply walked off. It was the second time he’d done so in as many nights and the third time this season.
I don’t see how people can continue to tolerate the presence of a man who would have the nerve to behave in such a way, and in front of a national ESPN audience that included such luminaries as Curt Schilling and John Kruk. It’s incredible, really.
Hey, hold on a second, I’m getting an update.
What’s that? Wait, really? A walk-off is a good thing? Huh, well, guess I’ll have to take a different tack here.
Starlin Castro might be carrying a WAR of -0.4 on the season, but he sure was in the middle of the battle with the Reds over this long weekend series. He ended up with game-winning hits on both Saturday and Sunday night and his home run on Friday tied the game for the Cubs before the Reds eventually prevailed.
Ah, but therein lies the eternal struggle for the Cubs shortstop, a dichotomy presented with unabashed trollery by the fine folks at the Four-Letter last night. Somewhere around the 3rd inning, they presented a graphic that showed viewers how Castro not only has the most hits in the NL since his debut, but also the most errors in the majors.
I could see the broadcast on the TV screens affixed to the club level from my seat in section 208 but had to take to the Twitters to confirm. The response was overwhelming, as many backed up what I had seen from a distance. My only joy in that moment is that I was unable to hear the opinings of the aforementioned pair of clowns in the booth.
My guess is that the commentary closely resembled the meatballs my daughter had gotten for lunch at L’Appetito, only far less awesome. But I digress.
Castro may have come up with the bit hit to end the game, but those heroics wouldn’t have been possible without a stellar defensive play by…Starlin Castro?
Brandon Phillips had already given the Reds the lead by singling in Billy Hamilton with no outs in the 6th inning when Joey Votto doubled to left-center. Chris Coghlan fielded the ball, spun, and threw to Castro, who fired a perfect strike to David Ross to narrowly beat Dat Dude BP at the plate.
The play was so close, in fact, that home plate umpire Toby Basner originally called Phillips safe. The call was overturned upon review, but the crowd already knew the right call after being able to see the tag from multiple angles in glorious hi-def on the two new outfield video boards. Say what you will, but those contraptions are awesome for plays like that.
As fate would have it, another play involving Chris Coghlan was featured prominently on the big screens later that same inning. It would eventually go for naught, but Cogs looped a fly down the line that was originally called foul. Replay showed that it had just ticked the outside of the chalk though, and he remained at second with a double.
But it was the play in which Coghlan combined with Castro to catch Phillips that loomed largest when it was all said and done. That held the Reds to a single run in the game and allowed Castro to drive home the game-winner for the second night in a row. But his heroics are only part of a bigger picture for the Cubs this season.
Consider this image from the video board during Sunday’s pre-game warmups:
I don’t care what Walter Sobchak says, with another on Sunday night, you can now mark it 8. What’s more, the Cubs are now 17-11 in one-run games, also the most such wins in the majors. While these games aren’t necessarily good for the blood pressure, they’re a sign that this team knows how to win.
Think about it: the Cubs are 7 games over .500 overall and 6 games over in the closest situations. Sure, much of that is owing to the inconsistent nature of both their pitching and their offense, but it’s a huge positive that they’re finding ways to come out on top more often than not. At least, that’s how I see it.
You have to go back to 2008 to find a Cubs team that had a winning record in 1-run games, and even that 97-win division champ squad was only 24-22. In the intervening 6 seasons between then and now, they’ve gone 117-163, or 46 games under .500. That’s, uh, not good.
But now you’ve got a team that seems confident in their ability to find ways to get it done. And, like it or not, Starlin Castro has been a big part of that this season. I liken Castro to those big new video boards in right and left: he’s kind of flashy at times and many feels he’s a bit incongruous with the team, but he’s still a big part of what the Cubs are doing this season.
So keep up your trade-Starlin-as-soon-as-possible talk if you will; I’ll just keep reveling in his walk-offs and posting pictures of him shushing the doubters.