Castro's powerful arrival lights fire under Cubs
CINCINNATI - The Cubs needed a spark. What they got was a bonfire.
The igniter was rookie shortstop Starlin Castro. Fresh from his morning call-up from Class AA Tennessee, the 20-year-old Castro enjoyed a record-setting performance in the Cubs' 14-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Making his major-league debut, Castro hit a 3-run homer in his first at-bat, giving the Cubs a 3-0 lead in the second inning. He added a 3-run triple to cap a 4-run fifth inning.
The 6 RBI in a debut established a major-league record. Castro also became the first Cub to homer in his first big-league at-bat since pitcher Jim Bullinger did it in 1992.
The newcomer helped the Cubs snap a three-game losing streak in arguably the most impressive game by a Cubs rookie since pitcher Kerry Wood struck out 20 Houston Astros on May 6, 1998.
"That's exactly what he did," manager Lou Piniella said of Castro providing his team with a spark. "When these young players come up here and they do well, they give you a lift, there's no question."
Castro was humble, but all smiles, afterward.
"Good, really good," he said in English, as he also got interpreting help from coach Ivan DeJesus.
Castro, a native of the Dominican Republic, has been considered the Cubs' shortstop of the future during a fast-track minor-league career.
The present looked pretty good when he came to the plate with Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto on base and facing Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey. Castro worked the count to 2-2 before driving an opposite-field homer to right. He wound up with the ball, which he had in his locker.
"It surprised me," he said through DeJesus. "I never felt like I was going to hit a home run."
Castro lined out to center field his second time up, in the fourth. His triple came off Reds reliever Micah Owings and staked Cubs pitcher Carlos Silva to a 9-0 lead.
Silva gave up 4 runs in the bottom of the fifth, and he said he felt some tightness near the top of his shoulder near his neck.
"I was fighting the whole game," said Silva, who is 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA.
Silva, too, was wowed by Castro.
"Amazing," he said. "Unbelievable. I was hitting behind him, and I was looking at everything he was doing. I was like, 'Wow.' Amazing. Good for him. I'm so happy for him. I think he's going to bring such good energy for the team."
The Cubs (14-16) need victories as much as they need energy. Maybe Castro can provide both.
"Pretty impressive is all I can say," said Piniella, who got a good look at Castro in the spring. "We're glad to have him here."
Bruce Miles' game tracker
Cubs 14, Reds 7
Sterling debut: Shortstop Starlin Castro set a big-league record with 6 RBI in his debut. He had a 3-run homer in the second and a 3-run triple in the fifth. He saw 18 pitches in his 5 at-bats, going 2-for-5.
A win is a win: Cubs pitcher Carlos Silva improved to 3-0, but he lasted only 5 innings, giving up 10 hits and 4 runs. He threw 34 of his 92 pitches in the fifth.
Pinching in: Mike Fontenot hit a grand slam as a pinch hitter in the eighth. It was the Cubs' first pinch-hit grand slam since Derrek Lee did it against the White Sox on May 19, 2007.