News From Left Field

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Mets pitcher Francisco Rodriguez reacts to
Luis Castillo’s error.

Luis Castillo Evokes Memories of Brant Brown With Dropped Pop-Up

June 13, 2009 10:30 AM
by Denis Cummings
Luis Castillo’s game-ending dropped pop-up recalls a similar error by Brant Brown that nearly cost the Cubs the 1998 wild card.

Castillo Blunder Hands Win to Yankees

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The Mets, leading the cross-town rival Yankees 8-7 with two outs in the ninth, appeared to have the first game of the 2009 Subway Series wrapped up as closer Francisco Rodriguez got Alex Rodriguez to hit a pop-up behind second base. Rodriguez slammed his bat and Mets second baseman Luis Castillo, who holds the record for most consecutive errorless games for a second baseman, settled under the ball.

But the ball popped out of Castillo’s glove and fell to the ground. Derek Jeter, who was on second, scored easily. Mark Teixiera hustled all the way from first and was waved home as Castillo inexplicably tossed the ball to second. Teixiera beat Alex Cora’s throw home, giving the Yankees an improbable 9-8 win.

It was a “play as embarrassing as anything Marvelous Marv Throneberry could have conjured,” writes The New York Times’ Tyler Kepner, referring to the famously inept first baseman of the ’62 Mets.

It was not the first time this season that the Mets have drawn comparisons to the ’62 Mets; in a game last month against the Dodgers, Ryan Church missed third base, negating a go-ahead run in the top of the 11th inning. In the bottom of the inning, the Mets made two errors—their fourth and fifth of the game—to gift the winning run to the Dodgers. “Marv Throneberry lives again!” declared Dodgers announcer Vin Scully.

With the loss tonight, Francisco Rodriguez was credited with a blown save, his first of the season. Amazingly, tonight might not have been the most bizarre ending to a game with him on the mound.

In 2005, while pitching for the Angels against the Athletics, Rodriguez dropped the toss back from catcher Jose Molina—currently a member of the Yankees—in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game. The Athletics’ Jason Kendall alertly broke from third base and scored the winning run as Rodriguez scrambled for the ball behind the mound.

Background: Brant Brown’s infamous blunder

Castillo’s blunder brings to mind a famous error made by Cubs outfielder Brant Brown in 1998. The Cubs were tied with the Mets and one game ahead of the Giants in the wild-card race heading into a Thursday afternoon game against the Brewers, their fourth-to-last game of the season.

The Cubs led 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth, but the Brewers the Brewers loaded the bases. With two outs, Geoff Jenkins hit a lazy fly ball to Brown in left field.

“Brown drifted back in left field for the final easy out, sunglasses down to shield him from the glare of the late-afternoon sun,” wrote The Associated Press. “The ball landed right on his glove, drawing cheers from the Chicago fans. But the shouts of joy quickly turned to gasps as the ball dropped to the ground.”

As all three runners came around to score, Sports Illustrated recounted, “team announcer Ron Santo, a former Cub, was yelling mournfully into a microphone: ‘Noooooo! Noooooo! Noooooo!’”

Many believed that the stunning 8-7 loss would doom the Cubs’ season, but they retained the wild card lead—thanks to the Mets collapsing in their final five games—and beat the Giants in a one-game playoff.
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