By Jon Lane
Or in my case hours later. Thanks to mad traffic getting out of the Bronx – even 45 minutes after Alex Rodriguez’s pop fly shockingly bounced off the heel of Luis Castillo’s glove – and an incident on the Long Island Rail Road, I walked into my door after 3 a.m.
Friday night came down to this: The Yankees did not deserve to win. Five pitchers combined to walk nine batters, Mariano Rivera inexplicably continued to not get it done in tie games and A-Rod was a routine catch from again being vilified for failing to deliver in the clutch.
Then Castillo dropped the ball and Mark Teixeira – running hard from first base, in other words doing what he’s supposed to do but more and more players refuse to do – raced home with the winning run. But considering the Yankees’ performance in Boston and against the Mets, in this case it was better to be lucky than good. To quote Derek Jeter, “We feel like we stole one.”
“It’s hard to believe, because we tried to give the game away all night, and they took advantage of all the mistakes that we made,” said Joe Girardi. “And in the end, we got the big gift. “I understand that we kind of got a gift tonight. And you can’t pitch like that and expect to win.”
As for the Mets, Jerry Manuel refused to ostracize Castillo – so much for him throwing his players under the bus – while angry fans lit up sports talk radio demanding that Castillo, in the midst of a bounce-back season, be immediately released. An old cliche in baseball is that momentum is as good as the next day’s starting pitcher and if the Mets take the next two games less people will be talking about Castillo and more about the Yankees’ June swoon.
But remember, the Mets choked away the NL East two years in a row, falling short of a playoff spot by one game both times. They can’t look at Friday and say, “It’s one game and it’s early.”
“We’ve had three games this week where we should have had three wins over rivals and we came up short,” said Manuel, citing other blown chances the prior two nights against the Phillies. “This is going to be a good test for us.”
And a bigger one for Castillo’s psyche. After the game he was alone in the clubhouse at his locker, elbows on knees and eyes reddening. The lone consolation is that the Mets don’t return to Citi Field until June 19. It’s up to he and the Mets to give their angry and jaded fan base something a lot more positive, or slightly less negative, to discuss.