Updated: July 18, 2014 6:30AM
MIAMI — Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro says he doesn’t look for home runs when he goes to the plate. But he’s finding them at a rate like he never has in his career.
His go-ahead, three-run homer in the sixth inning Monday against the Miami Marlins was his 10th, matching through 68 games his total for last season. The Cubs eventually won 5-4 in 13 innings on an RBI double by Travis Wood, who was pinch-hitting for fellow pitcher Carlos Villanueva.
Castro is only four short of his career-high homer total of 2012 and is on pace for 24, finally showing the power past managers and teammates have suggested was coming.
“Obviously, he’s doing very well, and, obviously, he’s got strength,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Do I think he goes up there thinking he’s going to hit a home run every time he goes to the plate? No. I think he goes up there trying to put a good swing on a pitch, and if he happens to barrel it up and if he can elevate it, he has a chance of driving the ball out of the ballpark, or at least to the gaps.
“He’s just being himself.”
Castro, a two-time All-Star who led the league in hits his first full season in the big leagues, still is getting his hits. He’s batting .286 after going 3-for-6 for his third multihit game of this three-city road trip and second straight.
“I’ve been feeling good at the plate for a couple of weeks,” he said.
It has coincided with production from the cleanup spot that helped the Cubs to their best homestand before this trip and helped them get their first road series win over the weekend in Philadelphia — with a homer for both runs in a win Friday and three hits in a win Sunday.
Where does he go from here? He just turned 24 in March — younger than Astros stud rookie George Springer — and already has 779 hits.
Now he’s going to add regular power?
“He is a young man,” Renteria said. “I would hate to want to measure and project something moving forward based on where he’s at right now. . . . He’s getting pitches to hit and doing what he can with them, and hopefully that’s something that he can maintain.”
Cubs starter Jason Hammel, with a flock of scouts watching him as a potential trade target, struck out nine but gave up an early two-run homer to Giancarlo Stanton and wound up with a no-decision for six so-so innings.
† Kris Bryant, the Cubs’ top prospect who’s already leading the Southern League in all the Triple Crown categories, won the Southern League All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday.
† When Mike Olt singled to left field in the third inning, it gave him 10 singles — matching his home-run total.
† Don’t believe all the trade rumors out there regarding Cubs starting pitching. Contrary to one national report, sources say the Cubs are not making all of their starting pitchers except Travis Wood available.