PORTLAND, Maine — Rusney Castillo played his first game in New England on Friday night and finished 2-for-3 with a single, an RBI double, a walk and two runs scored in the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs’ playoff win.
Castillo, who signed with the Boston Red Sox last month and could be in the majors soon, received a rousing ovation from the 5,034 fans at Hadlock Field when his name was announced in the starting lineup. The 27-year-old Cuban then put on a show in Game 3 of the Eastern League semifinal series and scored the eventual winning run in the Sea Dogs’ 6-3 victory over the Binghamton Mets. He played seven innings before being taken out of the game.
Portland now leads the best-of-five series two games to one. Game 4 is scheduled for noon Saturday at Hadlock Field.
Friday’s game was Castillo’s second with the Sea Dogs but his first in Portland. He went 1-for-3 with a run scored and a stolen base in his Double-A debut Wednesday night in Binghamton and entered Friday’s play 2-for-8 with an RBI and a run scored in three minor league games.
Castillo lined out to center field on a very hard hit ball in his first at-bat Friday night.
Castillo’s second at-bat was much more effective as he drew a four-pitch walk from Binghamton left-hander Steven Matz. None of the four pitches were anywhere close to the strike zone. Castillo then took a good-sized lead at first base, prompting Matz to throw over three times. Castillo tried to steal second on the first pitch after the third pick-off try but reached on a fielder’s choice.
The fifth inning was all Castillo. He swung at a first-pitch curveball and lined an RBI double into the right field corner.
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Castillo then took a big lead off second and used his great speed to easily score on Mike Miller’s RBI single later in the inning to give Portland a 3-0 lead.
Castillo had a successful fourth at-bat, too, with a single into center field on a 1-1 slider in the seventh inning. Castillo scored from second on a single to left by Sean Coyle, arriving at the plate right when the ball did. The ball hit Castillo in the back as he slid in safely, but he shook it off and celebrated as the Sea Dogs took a 4-3 lead.
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Castillo didn’t have to display his excellent range in center field because only one ball was hit his way — a seventh-inning liner that he caught with ease.
Castillo isn’t a power hitter like fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes, but he should get on base consistently and go opposite field when needed at the major league level. Castillo’s speed also is a valuable asset, and he displayed it on two occasions while scoring from second base.
Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5 million free-agent contract with the Red Sox last month, a move that added even more depth to an already loaded outfield that includes Cespedes, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig and Mookie Betts, among others.
Castillo played five seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, posting a .319/.383/.516 slash line with 51 home runs in 360 games.
Photo via Twitter/@ClearTheBases