By HAL McCOY
Luis Castillo performed Saturday night the way the Cincinnati Reds hope he does more often than not. He turned the Busch Stadium III pitching mound into a one-man stage show.
While making his change-up do a tap dance, Castillo shut out the St. Louis Cardinals on two hits over 6 2/3 innings and struck out a career best 11.
From there, the Reds bullpen kept the silencers on the St. Louis bats en route to a 4-0 victory.
Castillo gave up a leadoff single to Matt Carpenter in the first inning and an opposite field bloop single to pitcher Tyson Ross in the sixth inning and nothing more. He threw strikes as if dealing Three-Card Monty to the Cardinals.
In his previous start, Castillo was ravaged by the Chicago Cubs and his outlook wasn’t good against a Cardinals team that won 22 games in August, tying a franchise record for most wins in a month.
Castillo’s opponent was Daniel Poncedeleon, who was last seen holding the Reds hitless over seven innings. And Poncedeleon stretched that hitless streak Saturday night to 10 1/3 innings, retiring the first 10 Reds.
Jose Peraza ended it with a one-out double in the fourth and it was like getting that first olive out of a jar. The hits tumbled out after that.
Joey Votto doubled off the right center wall to make it 1-0, Scooter Gennett singled and Eugenio Suarez doubled off the left field wall for two runs. Those four straight hits gave the Reds a 3-0 lead and Suarez’s two RBI pushed his total to 98.
“That guy was amazing tonight, striking them out with fastballs and change-ups,” Suarez said in a post-game interview. “We need more Castillo like that.”
The Reds made it 4-0 in the seventh on Scott Schebler’s double and a single by Tucker Barnhart.
Castillo retired the first two in the seventh but when he walked Paul DeJong on a full count, his 104th pitch. Manager Jim Riggleman decided that was enough.
Riggleman acknowledged in his post-game media scrum that Castillo didn’t want to come out.
“I wasn’t totally convicted that I would take him out,” he said. “Castillo has not been real deep in game and I thought the walk was an indication to get him out of there.
“Probably Right there was as good a pitched game as we’ve had all year. We’ve had a couple others, a few good ones, but that one was at the top of the list,” Riggleman added.
David Hernandez retired the first two in the eighth and walked Matt Carpenter. Riggleman again trudged to the mound and took the baseball away from Hernandez.
He brought in closer Raisel Iglesias and he promptly walked Yadier Molina after he had him 0-and-2. He also went to 3-and-2 on Jose Martinez before striking him out to end the inning.
The walk to Molina was the first issued by Iglesias in his last 13 appearances over 14 1/3 innings.
Iglesias then painted a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out Tyler O’Neill and Paul DeJong to preserve the two-hit shutout and the victory.
Iglesias, not on speaking terms with English, was certainly on speaking terms with his pitches while piling up strikeouts like loose change on a dresser, lifting his up-and-down record to 8-and-11 with a 4.83 earned run average.
After stopping a skid during which the Reds lost seven of their previous eight, Castillo told Fox Sports Ohio, “He ran to the mound so I thought I was staying in. But he said, ‘Hey, that’s it.’ And I said, ‘No, no, no, I don’t want to come out.’ But that’s a decision he made and I respect that.
“Big part today was that I was on a good pace with (catcher) Tucker Barnhart,” he added. “I had a couple good ones before, but I felt really, really good in this one. And I faced a really good team trying to get into the playoffs.”