One year ago today, I went to my first ever first Subway Series game.
The energy was electric, and the crowd of 47,967 was the largest since Opening Day. There was definitely a different vibe around the Stadium.
The Luis Castillo Game will forever be remembered as one of the most extraordinary endings to a baseball game. Throw in the increased hype of the Subway Series and you’re looking at a classic.
But so much went on even before the ninth inning. Had Luis Castillo caught the ball, it still would have been an incredible game.
It all began with a strike to Alex Cora from Joba Chamberlain. Joba went on to have one of the more unusual pitching lines in recent history: 4 innings, 1 hit, 2 runs, 5 walks, 3 strikeouts. The one run scored when he hit Ryan Church with the bases loaded.
He threw exactly 100 pitches (52 for strikes), an atrocious rate of 25 pitches per inning. He actually retired the Mets in order in the first inning. But then he was all over the place the rest of the night. He threw 48 pitches in the third inning alone.
The third inning also included a series of arguments (and about thirty mound visits) between Joba and Posada. They constantly disagreed on pitch selection and were still bickering even after Joba had exited. Consequently, Francisco Cervelli started behind the plate for Joba’s next two starts, one of which included a home run that propelled the Yankees to an important win over Atlanta.
The game included a lot of highs, including a three-run home run from Hideki Matsui that gave the Yankees a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the sixth. But there were also lows. The Yankees blew leads of 1-0, 3-2, and 7-6. And Joba’s performance left a lot to be desired.
One of the more frustrating maneuvers was Joe Girardi’s decision to bring in Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning. I rarely criticize Joe Girardi, which I think puts me in the minority. But this was a clear case of over managing.
For those that don’t recall, Phil Coke had recorded the first two outs in the top of the eighth on five pitches. With two outs and no one on, Girardi decided to bring in Rivera. Granted, it’s never a bad thing when you bring in Mariano Rivera (that might be the most obvious statement of all time). But it was one of the only times I have ever seen the crowd boo prior to an appearance by Mo. The move really wasn’t necessary. Clearly the 47,000+ fans in attendance agreed with that.
Of course, once they played Enter Sandman, the crowd was back on its feet.
Rivera came into the game and walked Carlos Beltran. Then, with two strikes on David Wright, Rivera surrendered an RBI double that gave the Mets an 8-7 advantage. It was a very rare performance from Mo, but to his credit, he retired the Mets in order in the top of the ninth that kept the deficit at one.
So even before the bottom of the ninth inning, even before one of the most bizarre and preposterous baseball plays of all time, the game included a number of big hits, go-ahead home runs, and questionable managerial moves. Even though the Yankees trailed going into the ninth, it was already a thrilling game.
The bottom of the ninth started with a foul pop-out from Brett Gardner off Francisco Rodriguez. At this point, the Yankees only had a 12% chance of winning the game. Then, Derek Jeter singled, which increased the chance of victory to 22%. Johnny Damon, who didn’t start the game, pinch-hit for Nick Swisher and struck out on a 3-2 pitch. Jeter stole second in the process, but the chances of winning the game were still only 15%.
Mark Teixeira was then intentionally walked, which I thought was strange because it put the winning run on base. Isn’t that an unwritten rule? I was under the impression that a pitcher never purposely puts the winning run on base.
In any event, that brought Alex Rodriguez up to the plate. A-Rod worked the count to 3-1 and then popped up to second. He slammed his bat down in frustration and K-Rod let out a shout of elation.
You know the rest. Castillo dropped the ball. Jeter scored the tying run. Teixiera, who had been hustling around the bases from the moment of contact, scored the winning run.
There was no pie. Just giddy men who were happy to win a game. “I couldn’t believe what I saw,” A-Rod said after the game. “I’ve never seen that before.”
Neither had we. And it might be awhile before we see anything like that again.