Castro's heroics put May struggles in rearview

After rough month, Cubs shortstop delivers back-to-back walk-off hits

Castro's heroics put May struggles in rearview

CHICAGO -- What's the inspiration for Starlin Castro when he steps to the plate with the game on the line? He and his teammates just want to go home.

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Castro has delivered back-to-back walk-off hits, and is the first Cubs player to do so since Hall of Famer Ron Santo in 1966. Castro hit a game-winning RBI single on Saturday and delivered again on Sunday to help the Cubs beat the Reds.

"We want to go home -- we want to go home and win," Castro said. "We don't want to play 16 innings, 20 innings. We just try to concentrate. ... Just be ready, look middle-away and do damage."

The clutch hits help after Castro had one of the worst months of his career. He batted .221 in May and committed eight of his 13 total errors that month. So far, the three-time All-Star is batting .280 in June.

"He's hit in the past and at a very high level, and that tells me he's going to do it again," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Monday's game against the Indians was postponed because of rain.

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"I think he's been trying a little too hard sometimes," Maddon said. "The last two nights in big moments, [he's hit a] line drive up the middle, line drive up the gap."

Maddon has talked to Castro about imagining left-center field as his left-field foul line so he doesn't pull the ball as much. Castro said part of his struggles were because he was looking too much for offspeed pitches, which made him late against fastballs.

"I just try not to lose my focus and keep my concentration in the game and try to help my team win," Castro said. "We never quit and try to keep the game close."

Defensively, there have been improvements, too. He was part of a perfectly executed relay throw Sunday night to get Brandon Phillips at the plate. Castro has made two errors in 12 games in June.

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"The problem when I make errors is because I stay back on the ball," Castro said. "I try to attack every ball and try to catch it."

Maddon said the biggest problem has been the routine play, but he likes the extra work Castro is doing.

"I know when he makes a mistake it seems to be amplified," Maddon said, "but for the most part, he does a good job."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.