CHICAGO -- Call it bad timing or some sort of irony, but on the same day Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria basically lamented the fact that shortstop Starlin Castro used to be blamed for everything that went wrong with the Cubs, Castro actually did deserve a lot of blame in Chicago's 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.
He was slow to throw to first after stabbing a one-hop smash by rookie Gregory Polanco with two out in the seventh inning, and Polanco beat the throw to first. The next batter promptly homered to give the Pirates all the runs they would need to secure the victory.
“He came up slower than he probably should have,” Renteria said of Castro.
It’s a mental lapse Castro used to make more often. Knowing who’s running out of the batter’s box and understanding how much time he has to throw the ball hasn’t been an issue for him this season as it had in the past. Plays such as Saturday's are one reason he came in for criticism from dispirited fans.
“I know he can run,” Castro said of Polanco. “He hustled out of the box. It was a tough play.”
It’s not a big deal at this moment, as the Cubs aren’t securing a playoff spot anytime in the next few months, but can you imagine them being in a pennant race or a playoff game, where that kind of play makes the difference? Social media might explode. Just because Castro has cut down on those plays doesn’t mean they aren’t going to happen. It’s another learning experience for the 24-year-old -- as well as for pitcher Justin Grimm.
“Depends on how you want to look at everything,” Renteria said. “You can take that experience right there as a pitcher and say, ‘I have to pick my buddy up and keep making pitches.’”
That’s the right attitude to take. There is usually more than one culprit when things go south. Castro is to blame, Grimm is to blame and Polanco gets a lot of credit. The bottom line is that Castro is better in those situations than he was a year ago despite Saturday’s flub. The miscue only reminds everyone that those plays have been few and far between this season.
“He has been much better at it,” Renteria concurred.