DETROIT -- Nick Castellanos began the Tigers' home opener Friday with a tumbling catch in foul territory to retire Jacoby Ellsbury, a sign of his increasing comfort level at third base. The hits that followed in Detroit's 4-0 win over the Yankees showed Castellanos' increasing comfort at the plate.
His third career four-hit game was an all-singles affair after he had one hit in the season-opening two-game series at Miami. Behind the basic hitting line, however, Castellanos has been battling through two-strike at-bats.
He batted .158 (45-for-284) with two strikes as a rookie two years ago, and improved slightly to .168 (49-for-291) in those situations last year. He had three of his four singles with two strikes Friday after an RBI double Wednesday and a sacrifice fly Tuesday.
He had an 0-2 count against Wei-Yin Chen on Tuesday, when he lofted a fly ball into right field to drive in Justin Upton. He fouled off back-to-back 96-mph fastballs from Jose Fernandez after an 0-2 count Wednesday yet was ready for the curveball that followed, lining it into the gap in left-center.
He had an 0-2 count Friday against Luis Severino, having taken one fastball and swung through another. He shrugged off a cutter in the dirt, fouled off a 95-mph fastball, took another to bring the count even, fouled off a 96-mph fastball, then reached at a slider and sent a ground ball through the right side. It was the second of four straight Tigers singles in a two-run fourth inning that helped send Severino to defeat.
"We've won against two tough hard-throwing pitchers, Jose Fernandez on Wednesday and Severino today," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I can't say I'm surprised by it, but I'm pleased with the at-bats we're having."
He has to be especially pleased with Castellanos, who looks more relaxed when he gets into that two-strike hole.
"Yeah, you could say that," Castellanos said. "Less anxious, staying more relaxed, not worrying about the fastball with two strikes so much, I'd say. So I'm able to kind of see everything a little bit more."
Castellanos said it has come with experience and repetition. Eventually, the numbers would catch up with him if he gets into too many 0-2 situations, but his calmness backs up the idea that his third full season could be a big one -- at the plate and in the field.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.