The Mud Hens’ Bryan Holaday tags out Louisville's Henry Rodriguez at home plate during the first inning on Sunday.
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Nick Castellanos is starting to give Mud Hens fans a look at why he is considered Detroit’s top prospect — and one of the best hitting prospects in baseball, period.
Sunday night, Castellanos jump-started the Toledo offense with a two-run homer, then delivered the game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th of the Hens’ 4-3 victory over Louisville at Fifth Third Field.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens win in 10 innings
“In April, I was pressing, trying to do too much,” said Castellanos, who hit .259 the first month of the season. “In May, I started doing better with just going out there and playing, not trying to live up to anyone’s expectations but my own.
“So far, things have been going my way.”
Castellanos went 3 for 5 on Sunday, giving him hits in seven of his last eight games. In that period, he has hit .438 with four extra-base hits and five RBIs.
“He’s a young player who is learning,” Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. “It’s all about getting repetitions for him.
“He’s just turned 21, and he’s playing at a high level of baseball. He’s starting to figure out how good he can be.”
Castellanos came to the plate in the fourth with the Mud Hens trailing 3-0. With Jordan Lennerton on first after a single, Castellanos slammed a first-pitch fastball from Tony Cingrani for a long home run to right-center.
It marked the first runs Cingrani had given up to the Hens after 11 scoreless innings.
“Cingrani’s got a great fastball — that’s what everybody knows him for,” Castellanos said. “In my at-bats against him, I was looking dead-red fastball to make sure he didn’t beat me with it.”
Castellanos singled off Cingrani with two outs in the sixth, and was running hard when Ben Guez lined a double into the left-field corner. Nevin gambled and sent Castellanos home, and the gamble paid off as Castellanos scored to tie the game at 3-3.
In the 10th, Brandon Douglas hit a two-out fly ball to center that saw the Bats’ Billy Hamilton broke the wrong way on the ball, then fail to catch for a double. Louisville opted to intentionally walk Lennerton to face Castellanos, who ripped a pitch from Yohan Pino to right-center for a single that scored Douglas with the winning run.
“I was trying to cover the outside of the plate and trying not to swing at the down-in-the-dirt slider,” Castellanos said. “I was looking for a slider away that he would try to make me chase, and instead he threw me a fastball on the outside part of the plate.”
With the victory, Toledo’s third in 10 extra-inning games this season, the Hens have won three in a row.
“This is how it starts,” Castellanos said. “Some people may feel like the season has been dragging, but we’re only two months in — it has just started.
“Just as fast as we went 19-38, we can flip that. It’s not over.”
NOTES: The Mud Hens were without OF Quintin Berry on Sunday. Earlier in the day, the Tigers traded for IF-OF Francisco Martinez from Seattle in return for cash or a player to be named later. To make room for Martinez on the 40-man roster, Detroit designated Berry for assignment. … The Bats had five base runners caught stealing in the contest.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.