Imrem: Cubs have a true wild card in Castro

  • Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro connects for a double in the fourth inning during their game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Friday, October 2, 2015.

    Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro connects for a double in the fourth inning during their game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Friday, October 2, 2015. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro bites his batting helmet after grounding into a double play in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday in the final game of the regular season at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The Cubs scored three runs in the first and Castro got an RBI on the ground out.

    Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro bites his batting helmet after grounding into a double play in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday in the final game of the regular season at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The Cubs scored three runs in the first and Castro got an RBI on the ground out. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/6/2015 10:03 PM

Starlin Castro is the wild card in Wednesday night's National League wild-card game.

That became the suspicion way back when it was clear the Cubs would qualify for the playoffs.

 

Now that the Cubs and Pirates are about to play the win-or-else game, Starlin Castro's name continues to nag.

Who is he?

What is he?

We tend to trick ourselves into believing that we know what to expect from the primary elements of a game.

The pitchers are a couple of the best in baseball: Jake Arrieta for the Cubs and Gerrit Cole for the Pirates.

Never mind that the anticipated 1-0 game just might turn out to be 7-6 or even 10-8.

The managers are established in the sport: Joe Maddon for the Cubs and Clint Hurdle for the Pirates. Never mind that one of them will lose and the odds are that one of his strategic moves will be blamed.

There are stars, Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates; there is a collection of emerging youngsters including Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Gregory Polanco of the Pirates; there are complete rosters of players you think you have a handle on after 162 games.

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Still, any of them is liable to do anything in this pressurized postseason setting.

Baseball is a game of unpredictables under any circumstances but especially at this time of the year.

"What it comes down to is the beauty of the game," Hurdle said Tuesday, "and what could take place."

What could take place, for better or worse, is Starlin Castro.

If the Cubs reach Game 7 of the World Series, Castro just might drive in the winning run in extra innings.

Then again, Castro just might invent some sort of bonehead play Wednesday night to eliminate the Cubs.

Starlin Castro is that level of unpredictable among unpredictables.

At the all-star break in early July, Castro was one of the reasons the Cubs couldn't rise above a few games over .500.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

At the July 31 trade deadline, Castro seemed like a prime candidate to go in a deal if another team would take him.

Now, Castro has moved from shortstop to second base and been one of baseball's best players for more than a month.

So, seriously, who is this guy?

What is this guy?

Starlin Castro's ups and downs in 2015 reflect his entire six-season career with the Cubs.

Castro is among the all-time elite as far as basehits at a certain tender age. He also has been among the all-time frustrating players in a franchise known for frustrating players.

When the Cubs signed Castro to a long-term contract, he appeared to be a steal. After awhile, he appeared to be a mistake. Now, he appears to be a steal again.

So, who is Starlin Castro?

What is he?

Maddon sounded like Bears coach John Fox on Tuesday by declining to reveal his starting lineup for Wednesday night's game.

Despite Castro's recent hot streak, he still isn't guaranteed to be at second base until Maddon says he is.

But assuming Castro does play, heck, he could make a great play … he could commit a klunker … he could do anything at any time.

Hurdle, speaking in generalities rather than specifics, said that "different things happen from time to time" in baseball.

The nagging suspicion continues to be that Starlin Castro will be responsible for something different, one way or the other.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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