The biggest problem that’s been holding Miguel Castro back has been his control, and that was evident early when the Orioles right-hander received a sudden spot start Sunday in the team’s final game before the All-Star break, a 6-5 win over the Texas Rangers
Castro received his first start of the season — all 37 of his previous appearances were in relief — and quickly fell behind 4-0 five batters into the game after loading the bases with walks to the first three hitters he faced.
Despite falling behind to all three hitters, Castro had two-strike counts on Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar before walking them, his sinker sweeping out of the zone against the trio.
Castro struck out the next batter he faced, second baseman Rougned Odor, but allowed a towering first-pitch grand slam to Ronald Guzmán on a 1-1 sinker at the knees, a ball the Rangers rookie hit onto the flag court in right field for his first career grand slam.
Castro was able to regroup, retiring the next six batters he faced, four of them on ground-ball outs, before he was relieved by left-hander Tanner Scott.
Scott (2/3 of an inning), Mike Wright Jr. (three innings), Paul Fry (1 2/3 innings) and Zach Britton (one inning) combined for 6 1/3 innings of relief, with the only run over that span coming on Choo’s solo homer off Wright in the seventh inning.
“Obviously, Miguel struggled early on,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He got back the second inning, got us back there. … I thought Mike Wright had the key outing. Tanner got back on the horse. … Fry's been good.”
With three walks in his 2 2/3-inning outing, Castro’s 5.46 walks per nine innings are more than any major league reliever with more than 40 innings this season. He is just one of two major league pitchers to record 50 or more innings and average more than five walks per nine innings.
While those walk totals haven’t hurt Castro immensely — he still owns a 3.54 ERA in 56 innings — they overshadows the good numbers he’s put up, such as the .221 opponents’ batting average and an impressive 22.4 percent soft-contact rate.
Castro hasn’t been hurt that badly by walks because he’s been able to strand runners. Even after allowing Sunday’s grand slam, Castro has a .746 left-on-base percentage and has allowed just 0.48 homers per nine innings.