Thursday, November 13, 2014

Luis Castillo Becomes the Most Hated and Loved Player in New York on One Play

The game between the New York Yankees and New York Mets on June 13, 2009 featured seven lead changes. But it was the last one that sent the Yankee Stadium crowd into a frenzy.

With the game tied at seven, and two outs in the top of the 8th, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera replaced reliever Phil Coke to pitch to Carlos Beltran. Beltran drew a walk and the next batter, David Wright drove in Beltran with a  double to center. With the Mets now leading 8-7, the next batter, Ryan Church, struck out to end the inning.

The Mets led 8-7 going into the bottom of the ninth, when their closer Francisco Rodriguez took the mound. Rodriguez was in a position to earn his 17th consecutive save of the season when Brett Gardner stepped into the batter's box. Gardner fouled out for the first out of the inning. Derek Jeter singled to center, and stole second while the next batter, Johnny Damon, struck out. With two outs, the Mets decided to set up a force play at first, second and third by intentionally walking Mark Teixeira, who represented the go-ahead run for the Yankees. Then, Alex Rodriguez stepped up to the plate.

Rodriguez took the first four pitches of the at-bat, the first three for balls and the fourth for a strike. Then, he popped a 94-mile per hour 3-1 pitch high shallow right field. Rodriguez slammed his bat down as he lightly jogged to first. Jeter and Teixeira started running on contact, as players are taught to do with two outs since they start playing the game. Francisco Rodriguez pointed to the ball in the air and pumped his fist as second baseman Luis Castillo settled under the ball and prepared to make the last out of the game.

Castillo put up his two hands to call off any other players. He started backpedaling, put his glove up with his left arm, and the ball his glove. It was in the center of his glove, but bounced off his palm and onto the field. He fell to his knees and threw the ball to second, but Jeter had already scored the tying run and Teixeira was in the process of scoring the winning run.

While there was plenty of scoring earlier in the game, Castillo's failure to catch the popup truly was the reason the Yankees were able to win the game. It was both Castillo's fault for not using two hands to secure the ball when it was in his glove, and the correctness of Jeter and Teixeira to run despite a seemingly obvious end to the game.

In 1993, Dennis Eckersley coined the term to describe a game-winning hit as a "walk-off," as away players slowly walk off the field as the home team celebrates. This was truely the case for the Mets, and especially Luis Castillo.

See the play:

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