Starlin Castro shows Cubs what they are missing

CHICAGO -- It wasn't the Boston Red Sox winning without Nomar Garciaparra in 2004. It wasn't the New York Yankees winning a World Series in 1996, the year after Don Mattingly retired. But it was something.

Starlin Castro was the moon and the sun in Wrigleyville for a few years -- a .300 hitter as a 20-year-old rookie, a three-time All-Star by the time he was 24. Then he was basically discarded to the Yankees for a swing starter (Adam Warren) by the time he was 25.

All the Cubs did in his absence was win the World Series for the first time in 108 years. He endured all the pain and wasn't allowed to bask in the joy.

On Friday, Castro, who is just 27, was feted with a video tribute. He then reminded the Cubs and their fans why there were doubts about him, by messing up on a potential sacrifice fly -- first by not tagging up at third immediately, then by taking a weird route to the plate.

But whether he's with the Cubs or the Yankees, it is always Castro's bat that can have the final say. This season, it has done so frequently.

So there was Castro on Saturday, batting third in what is turning into another Murderers' Row for the Yankees, keying an 11-6 rout of the Cubs at Wrigley. Castro went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and an RBI double. The home run was a mammoth shot off Felix Pena in the fourth inning.

“To come back here and hit a home run feels really good," Castro said.

There is a lot of talk about the Yankees' Aaron Judge -- and deservedly so -- but Castro has been nearly as good. Castro's .381 batting average leads the American League, and his 1.006 OPS is fifth.

"He is having a blast," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

What can be overlooked about Castro is his youth. He is just two years older than Judge, even though -- as Girardi is wont to say -- it feels like Castro has been around forever.

Being in Chicago with Castro is a little strange, because you get a glimpse of his former life when he was the star of the show. With the Yankees, he is an extra of sorts, not that he is playing like one these days.

The marquee is filled with the young names such as Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Luis Severino. There are veterans of interest, including Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. Castro is not at the forefront, like he once was with the Cubs. This seems to suit him just fine, especially considering all he does is hit, with pitchers seemingly having no answers.

Castro has been dominant against the fastball. He is batting .412 with a 1.149 OPS against the pitch. Four of his six homers have been off fastballs.

Castro is tough to get out on any pitch these days, though. During his nine-game hitting streak, he is 14-for-39 (.359).

Castro has been able to hit since the Cubs signed him out of the Dominican Republic as a teenager. He hit in the minors. He hit in the majors. In his first season with the Yankees, he hit .270, which was OK; but it wasn't enough, since Castro doesn’t walk and his on-base was just .300.

This season, he has been far better. The season is not even a quarter of the way done, but in this short time, Castro has been delivering. He missed out on the Cubs' World Series. Maybe he'll get his chance with the Yankees.