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Castro gives Cubs fans reason to watch

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs' seven-game win streak allowed them to gain a grand total of a game and a half on the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers, as Sunday’s 8-7 loss to the Cincinnati Reds left the Cubs 16 games out with 47 left to play.

However, the one constant bright spot for Cubs fans has been the continued progress of All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro.

The 21-year-old infielder is not only hitting for average, his newfound power stroke is also being displayed. Castro smashed a 420-foot homer to centerfield on Sunday and hit two balls to the warning track for outs.

Since the team traded Kosuke Fukudome on July 28, Castro has appeared to find a home in the leadoff spot.

“You keep him at the top of the order and four or five at-bats are almost guaranteed,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “He’s not unhappy with that. He loves to hit.”

Quade said he thinks teams have tried and failed to make adjustments to counter Castro’s aggressive approach at the plate (21 walks in 503 plate appearances).

“People might have made adjustments on a lot of good hitters in this league,” Quade said. “It’s a tribute to him. People are trying to make adjustments and vice versa. Whether it’s better knowledge of the strike zone, I’m not sure, but the thing I’m impressed with is that he’s gotten hot and has had less rest than anybody on the team yet he continues to motor on.”

Castro has been on a tear, having scored runs in nine straight games with an eight-game hitting streak to boot. (18-for-37 in that stretch).

The Cubs shortstop also leads the National League in hits.