Extra! Extra! Starlin Castro is back.
OK, it's probably too early to start with the screaming headlines. But there is something "extra" going on the last couple days with the Cubs shortstop, and it has everything to do with extra-base hits.
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Castro doubled and hit a go-ahead solo home run in the sixth inning Saturday to give the Cubs a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field.
The home run, a shot to center field, was Castro's eighth of the season but his first since July 31. Entering Friday, Castro had only 2 extra-base hits in August. He began to remedy that situation with a pair of doubles Friday.
"Yeah, I feel a little better," said Castro, who has a hitting line of .242/.281/.344. "Just finish strong. Try to come to next year with a clean mind, with my mind clean and ready to go."
Castro's numbers are well down from his career norms, and theories abound as to why. He came up as an aggressive hitter with great hand-eye coordination who made hard contact. The Cubs tried to get him to be more patient at the plate last year, but his numbers clearly suffered over the first five months of this year.
"Be me, that's what I want to be," he said. "Be me, and if I strike out on a bad pitch, so what? That's the feeling I need."
Asked if he wants to be more aggressive, he said yes.
"Aggressive hitter," he said. "You have to throw a strike, no matter what. You learn from that. ... Just try to be aggressive. Try to be me and put the ball in play like I always do, and something happens."
It will be interesting to see how things play out over the final month of the season, but manager Dale Sveum stresses "slugging percentage," and he was glad to get some from Castro.
"He's been swinging the bat with a lot more authority lately," said Sveum, whose team improved to 57-78. "To see him put that kind of swing on that ball to center field with the wind blowing in, that was nice, especially a game winner.
"His at-bats have been quite a bit better, let alone driving the ball and getting the head (of the bat) where it's supposed to be when the ball arrives. It's nice that the ball is coming off his bat like it did a couple years ago and last year."
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