What Mahoning Valley Scrappers first baseman Leo Castillo lacks in comfort with the English language, he more than makes up for with his feeling at the plate right now.
For the second night in a row, Castillo came up to bat with the bases loaded. And for the second night in a row he delivered in a big way.
His bases-clearing double was part of a six-run fourth inning for the Scrappers, who routed the Connecticut Tigers 9-2 at Eastwood Field on Friday night.
“The hard work has been coming through and now it’s starting to pay off,” Castillo said through a translator.
Castillo was born in San Domingo, Dominican Republic and was signed by Cleveland as a free agent in 2010. He turned 21 earlier this month, but is still adjusting to life, and baseball, in America.
“It was tough at first and I definitely went through some growing pains,” said Castillo, “but I was just fighting through and I’m hitting better now.”
With a game-tying grand slam on Thursday and another four-RBI performance on Friday, Castillo has eight RBIs in his last two games.
“Leo’s hot right now,” said Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak said. “He’s in a zone, I guess you could say.
“I liked him this spring. He’s got a nice approach, his swing is good, he’s nice and loose and relaxed — everything’s free, he doesn’t get jammed a lot — and he’s got a good eye which is a big part of it.”
Kubiak also got another solid performance from starting pitcher Sean Brady. The left-hander threw six shutout innings, allowing only three hits.
The Indians fifth-round draft pick in 2013 tied his season high for innings pitched (6), and set a new best for strikeouts (5). Brady was also very effective over six innings, throwing 72 pitches and 46 for strikes.
“He’s been good every outing,” Kubiak said. “Any time a lefty can get the ball over like that it makes it hard for the hitters.”
Brady improved to 2-1 and lowed his ERA to 2.52.
The Scrappers struck for one run in the first inning on a Francisco Mejia two-out, RBI double. With the score still 1-0, the Scrappers sent 10 batters to the plate in the fourth. They scored six runs on four hits and were aided by a throwing error with two outs in the inning.
Seven of the Scrappers’ nine runs were scored with two outs.
“I’ve had a policy here over the years that I’ve kind of stuck with and I think it’s taken a while for [them] to grasp,” Kubiak said. “We’ve done some different things, but I’ve also given them some time off to try and get them to understand the demands of the schedule and the amount of work we have to do.
“Something’s happening right now and we’ll see what happens, because we’re going on the road soon and we’re going to be playing some pretty good clubs.”
Mahoning Valley will host the Aberdeen IronBirds for three games before going on the road for five. With Castillo’s hot hitting, the Scrappers are looking to get out of the cellar in the standings.
“I have full confidence at the plate and when I get up there I don’t try to do too much,” Castillo said. “I only try to hit the ball really hard.”