CINCINNATI – The postgame celebration/clubhouse dance party obviously included Adrian Grenier, the guy who played Vincent Chase in “Entourage” and is in town here shooting a movie.
That’s how the Cubs roll now, magnets for celebrities, national TV networks and so much playoff buzz. Starlin Castro isn’t a leading man anymore, but he finally gets it in a way he never did before.
The Cubs have been talking about this for years, Castro getting locked in, eliminating the mental mistakes and maximizing his unique physical talents.
A supporting player starred in Wednesday night’s 10-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, showing why he’s still in the playoff picture.
Castro went 4-for-5 and blasted his 11th home run in this up-and-down season. He also made a highlight-reel play at second base, diving to his right and throwing from his knees to steal a base hit from Brayan Pena in the fifth inning.
“Right now, he’s in the present tense, man,” manager Joe Maddon said. “His at-bats – I watch him walk up to the plate and he is absolutely in tune with each pitch. And I think he’s that way right now on defense.
“That’s what we’ve been shooting for – just to get him to understand the concept of one (pitch) and being involved in the moment.”
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Castro isn’t worried about what happens to a three-time All-Star shortstop after losing his job to Addison Russell. Castro isn’t sweating Maddon’s daily lineup decisions or sulking if he’s on the bench. Castro isn’t listening to too many voices telling him how and when to swing.
Castro has made a few mechanical adjustments, closing his stance and moving closer to home plate, but otherwise he’s cleared his head. The results in September: a .426 average with five homers, five doubles and 20 RBI in 68 at-bats.
“I always trust the people that say: ‘Hey, you never stop learning in baseball,’” Castro said. “Now I know it’s true. Because sometimes you think you know everything and you don’t.
“Every year you got to (make) a little change to make you better.”
After being stuck on five fifth-place teams, Castro isn’t going to stress about whether or not he will start at second base next week against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League’s wild-card game.
But this is the Starlin the Cubs had been waiting to see.
“He is playing with such tremendous focus,” Maddon said. “Starlin is a great teammate and right now he’s playing at the top of his game. He’s playing the complete game of baseball.
“It’s not just about hitting. You saw the play on defense, how hard he’s been running to first base. Everything he’s done, he’s playing a complete game of baseball. And that’s what I love about watching him play right now.”