Starlin Castro wants to close strong

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
8:11
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Although two-time All-Star Starlin Castro has appeared lost at the plate for most of the season, the Chicago Cubs' shortstop says he feels his salvation may come in September.

Castro hit what proved to be the winning home run in the sixth inning in Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. The coaching staff and Castro are in agreement on his offensive approach from this point on as he tries to emerge from a season-long slump.

[+] EnlargeCastro
David Banks/Getty ImagesStarlin Castro watches his home run in the sixth inning Saturday. Castro's last four hits have been for extra bases.
"Whys, what ifs, he saw more pitches and struggled with it throwing away at-bats," manager Dale Sveum said on ESPNChicago radio 1000 before Saturday's game. "Everybody tried to help him by telling him this and that. Now we want him to have a clean slate."

That is exactly what Castro is looking forward to as he starts the last 30 days of the 2013 season.

"Be me, that is what I want to be," Castro said. "If I strike out on a bad pitch, so what. I will get it done in the next at-bat. That is the feeling I need. [Before], if I missed getting it done in the first at-bat I was [done] in the next three. Now I think if I miss in the first at-bat I know I have three left."

Castro has led the team in pitches per at-bat (3.94) most of the season. Contrary to most hitters' approach as they get deep in counts, Castro expands his strike zone, falling prey to unhittable sliders and fastballs right down the middle of the plate.

"Today that was one of the hardest-hit balls I have had," Castro said of his solo home run off Zach Miner. "It was especially hard hit because it was a fastball in the middle."

For now, the 23-year-old shortstop says he hopes to use Saturday's success as a springboard back to being the player that made him a .290 hitter in his first three major league seasons.

"I need to be an aggressive hitter," Castro said. "If I strike out, so what. In the next at-bat I can make an adjustment. I have been looking at too many pitches in one at-bat. Now, I am looking early for fastballs, if they hang a slider or a curveball I will be ready to hit it. I will be looking for fastball in the at-bat."

Castro says he believes he has learned a lot from his season-long hitting struggles.

"I think it has been all mental," he said. "I know to go to home plate and hit, don't think too much. That is what good hitters do."

Castro's game deciding home run was his first long ball since July 31 against Milwaukee. His last four hits have been for extra bases -- three doubles and a home run.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.292 14 65 58
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 31
RBIA. Rizzo 74
RA. Rizzo 86
OPSA. Rizzo .895
WJ. Arrieta 9
ERAT. Wood 4.86
SOJ. Arrieta 157