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Starlin Castro says he just wants to ‘be me’ at the plate

PhiladelphiPhillies v Chicago Cubs

Philadelphia Phillies v Chicago Cubs

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The facts: 1:20 p.m., Ch. 9, ­720-AM, 1200-AM.

The starters: Kyle Kendrick (10-11, 4.40 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (1-1, 4.50).

Updated: October 2, 2013 6:54AM

After months of tinkering with Starlin Castro’s hitting approach, only to have the two-time All Star falter badly at the plate, the reality of letting him go back to being himself has sunk in.

Castro may be hitting only .242 overall, but he is finding his stroke again with another 2-for-4 day Saturday and the game-winning hit in his long home run to center field in the sixth off Zach Miner (0-1) in the 4-3 victory over Philadelphia.

``He’s been swinging the bat with a lot more authority,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ``To see that [homer] to center field with the win blowing in, and especially with a game-winning hit was impressive.’’

Castro hadn’t homered since July 31, and he has only eight this season. But his last four hits have been for extra bases.

``I feel better and I just want to finish strong, come into next year with a clear mind,’’ he said.

``Be aggressive—that’s what I put in my mind,’’ he said of going back to his past hitting approach. ``I want to put the first five months out of mine mind. I put in my mind that this last month I want to finish strong. Be me. If I strike out the first time, so what. That’s the feeling I need. Just stay positive.

``It’s all mental for me,’’ he said of the hitting approach. ``That’s what will help me.

``I want to be an aggressive hitter. That’s what good hitters do—go to the plate and hit.’’

Treat offenders tougher

Ryne Sandberg criticized baseball’s steroid abusers in his 2005 Hall of Fame induction speech. If anything, his opinion has toughened on the subject.

``The testing is aggressive and it seems to work, but the message can’t get any clearer that it doesn’t belong in Major League Baseball and doesn’t belong in major league sports,’’ the interim Phillies manager said. ``Every time baseball takes another hit, it’s another step backwards on what needs to be done.

``I personally think the punishment penalties need to be much stiffer. If you have a guy who tests positive and he has to sit out two or three years, it’s a little different ball game.’’

Home away from home

There’s no ready explanation why the Cubs have played better on the road this season than at home.

``I don’t think any one thing contributes to it,’’ Sveum said. ``We’ve struggled late in innings to score runs and add on, which is our big thing here. We’ve been shut out [seven times] at home.

``But last year it was a complete flip-flop,’’ he said of the better home record vs. road record last season. ``It’s hard to put a finger on it.’’

September sights

Outfielder Ryan Sweeney should return today after playing a scheduled game Saturday night at Class A Kane County. Infielder Luis Valbuena (strained oblique) might take a little longer, Sveum said.

Farm facts

Class AAA Iowa was eliminated from playoff hopes Friday in a 3-2 loss to Nashville.

But Class A Daytona and Class AA Tennessee remain playoff-bound.

At Daytona, top draft pick Kris Bryant, who is hitting .315, has hit safely in 12 of his first 15 games.

At Tennessee, outfielder Matt Szczur is hitting .279 and third baseman Christian Villanueva leads the Southern League with 41 doubles.


Twitter: @toniginnetti

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