Castellanos at his best against Indians

Castellanos at his best against Indians

CLEVELAND -- About the best comparison Nick Castellanos can come up with for this level of consistent defeat is a video game.

"My brother beats me in Super Smash Bros. every single time we play," said Castellanos, whose younger brother, Ryan, is a prospect in the Tigers' farm system. "But in baseball I don't think I've ever lost to a team 10 times in a row."

Not until Monday, that is, when the Tigers dropped their 10th straight game to the Indians with a 5-3 loss at Progressive Field.

Nobody on the Tigers' roster has had as much success against the Indians this season as Castellanos, and it was almost enough to lift them out of their injury-induced doldrums.

When Castellanos pounced on Danny Salazar's nearly unhittable split-change and lined it to left for a two-run homer in the sixth inning, the Tigers tied the score on a night when Daniel Norris was forced to exit in the third inning with an injury and a procession of relievers had to strand baserunners to keep the game close. Castellanos, meanwhile, had another big hit against a pitching staff that has largely owned Tigers hitters this season.

Castellanos is now 12-for-35 with two doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs against Cleveland this season. No other Tiger has double-digit hits or has driven in more than three runs off Tribe pitching.

"I didn't even know that," Castellanos said. "I have no idea. I guess it's just one of those things. Thanks for letting me know, though."

His manager has an idea.

"He does enjoy, I believe, being in the batter's box on the big stage in the big games," Brad Ausmus said. "In the division, I think, that probably plays into his psyche."

The longer the Tigers' drought against Cleveland continues, the bigger the games seem to become. Monday seemed to bring out Castellanos' best. His double in the second inning was Detroit's first hit off Salazar, coming on an 0-2 pitch. His homer was the first Salazar has given up on his split-changeup since last August.

"When he leaves it up, it's a good pitch to hit," Castellanos said. "But when he gets it working and he gets it at the bottom of the zone, it's pretty tough."

It was also Castellanos' 15th homer of the year, tying his career high for a full season.

When Castellanos came back up in the eighth with two on and nobody out, he had a chance to turn the game once more, this time off setup man Bryan Shaw. He hit a shot up the middle, but Jason Kipnis ranged to his right and shoveled the ball to Francisco Lindor, starting a double play that took the potential tying run off the basepaths and put it back at the plate.

"It's unfortunate," Castellanos said. "If that ball's another foot, half-foot up the middle, maybe we have bases loaded, or [Miguel Cabrera] scores or it's me and [Victor Martinez] on first and second with no outs. That could have been a turning point in the ballgame, too."

Asked what the Tigers can do to change their fortunes, Castellanos smiled.

"Everybody tomorrow is going to hit their opposite hand," he joked. "Maybe that would work."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. 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.