Welington Castillo was good for the Orioles before he went on the disabled list.
He’s been unconscious since he returned Tuesday in Detroit.
Case in point: The Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 in 10, rain-soaked innings Friday, primarily on the strength of their starting catcher’s bat.
Castillo hit a pair of two-run homers, including a game-ending shot against Toronto reliever Jason Grilli in the bottom of the 10th.
It was Castillo’s first walkoff ever – at any level. He had trouble not smiling afterward.
“It felt great. It felt great, honestly, especially to win the ballgame,” Castillo said. “It’s a walk-off homer, so it felt great, especially since I hit two tonight. It’s always great to hit a homer.”
Castillo is now hitting .365 with a .541 slugging percentage in 85 at-bats for the Orioles. He has three homers and six doubles. And Orioles manager Buck Showalter said it feels like he’s done even more damage.
“It’s funny, I looked up there (at the scoreboard) and it doesn’t feel like he had (just) one home run coming into the game,” Showalter said. “He’s a real tough-minded guy. He’s got a certain mental toughness about him. As you’re around him, you really have an appreciation for it.”
Remember, this is a guy that was non-tendered by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fall. He’s a guy that is supposed to have the heavy burden of replacing long-time starter Matt Wieters in Baltimore.
And he’s acted as if there’s no pressure. We’ve certainly seen that since he has come back from the DL (shoulder tendinitis). He’s 9-for-15 with two homers and seven RBIs.
“I just don’t try to do too much,” he said. “I’m seeing the ball better. I think that way. I don’t worry about my power. I know it’s going to come. I just tried to make good contact.”
He’s making damaging contact just about every time he’s at the plate. He has four-straight, three-hit games. He has an eight-game hitting streak. He’s been much, much more than advertised.
Tillman catching up
Here’s my take on Chris Tillman: He’s basically in mid-April form.
And that makes sense, because he basically missed all of spring training and made his third start of the season Friday night.
It was vintage Tillman The Battler. He did what he had to do to keep his team in the game.
Tillman allowed three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four in six innings. He also picked up his first quality start of the year.
“I think we are taking steps every time. I think this one, by far, was the best one other than the (fourth) inning that kind of got away from me a little bit. Pitching-wise, I feel like I was much better,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. I wouldn’t say I’m mechanically great, but we’re able to compete and make pitches when we need to and it’s gonna be a fight for a little while.”
I’ve been asked several times in the last two weeks whether I think we’ll see Tillman get crisper as the season progresses or is this basically what we’re going to get as he battles back from the shoulder injury.
My guess is if he can stay healthy, he’ll get stronger, go deeper and build up his pitch count like he would in any other season. He got a later start, but there’s been progression each outing – and that’s encouraging.
Helping the cause with a dumb play
I’m not an unadulterated hater of the bunt. There’s a place for it. But sometimes the decision to bunt drives me batty.
The Blue Jays attempted three bunts Friday. One was strike three, one went for a double play, and the third bailed the Orioles out of a rocky inning.
Tillman had already allowed three runs in the fourth and was teetering some with one out. With speedy Devon Travis on third base and light-hitting Darwin Barney up, the Jays called for a suicide squeeze.
Did I mention that there was one out?
Barney, a good bunter, missed the offering. And Travis, running on the pitch, was a dead man. Caught in a rundown for the second out.
Barney followed by hitting a ball to left that would have been a sacrifice fly but instead was the third out of the inning.
I called it such on Twitter and a couple fellas from the country north of us questioned my basic existence. And that’s OK. I’m not a big league manager. Just a writer. But that cost the Jays a key run. Dumb.
Smith held out for a day
Seth Smith has been an integral part of the Orioles, hitting .310 with four homers and 10 RBIs. But Smith was held out of Friday’s game after fouling a ball off his left cheek Thursday.
He had been dealing with some blurred vision Thursday and Showalter said he wanted to keep Smith on the bench for a day. He could have come in to pinch hit if needed.
“Seth and I talked before the game and I just didn’t want him to start the game and have some issues and have to come out,” Showalter said. “I’d rather be able to have him as a bullet there to use late if he felt OK.”