- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Luis Castillo was still shaky when he arrived at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. His dropped popup was splashed across the New York tabs, and the Mets second baseman had spent a restless night waiting for his next game.

It couldn’t come soon enough.

“I want to put everything in the past, starting today,” he said.

Castillo was back at second and batting leadoff for the second game of the Subway Series after his embarrassing error Friday night cost the Mets a victory. He got a fairly warm welcome before he grounded out in his first at-bat and made a nice stab on Hideki Matsui’s second-inning liner in a steady rain.

It was a sorely needed routine start after the difficult ending in his previous game.

Castillo flubbed Alex Rodriguez’s two-out popup in the ninth inning, letting Derek Jeter score from second and Mark Teixeira from first and giving the Yankees a wild 9-8 victory over the Mets in the series opener.

“He missed it and it cost us the game, period,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “But we have to move on.”

That’s exactly what Castillo was hoping for, too. The ugly miscue led to headlines like “AMAZIN’ DISGRACE,” and “SUBWAY MIRACLE,” and came in the middle of his bounce-back season.

“I want to play like I’ve been playing for a long time,” said Castillo, a three-time Gold Glove winner from 2003-05 with Florida. “I don’t want to be thinking about it.

“Play hard, that’s what I can do right now.”

Castillo was batting .277 with seven steals and 34 runs before Saturday’s game against the Yankees. He had the winning hit in a 5-4 victory over Milwaukee on April 17, washing away some of the bad memories from his lackluster 2008 season.

But that seemed like a long time ago after his fifth error of the season handed a victory to the Mets’ crosstown rivals. Castillo kept drifting toward the foul line and allowed the ball to pop out of his glove as he tried for a one-handed catch on the right-field grass.

Not that he was interested in going over the details.

“I didn’t look at a replay because I feel bad,” he said. “Like I was saying last night, I feel bad.”

The unusual ending was the latest in a series of crazy plays across baseball. Cleveland beat Kansas City 4-3 in 10 innings on Thursday night when Shin-Soo Choo’s winning single hit a low-flying gull and got past center fielder Coco Crisp. Cubs slugger Milton Bradley flipped the ball into the stands after catching Joe Mauer’s one-out sacrifice fly in a 7-4 loss to Minnesota on Friday.

The Mets have made a couple of mistakes on routine plays this year. They lost to Florida on April 12 when left fielder Daniel Murphy dropped Cody Ross’ fly ball. And on May 18 they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers after Ryan Church missed third base en route to not scoring the go-ahead run in the 11th inning.

Castillo batted .245 with just 11 extra-base hits last season, failing to live up to the $25 million, four-year contract he agreed to in November 2007.

His game-ending error was a surprise to more than just the Yankees and Mets. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he never saw Castillo miss a popup during his one-plus years with Minnesota.

“It’s just unfortunate,” Gardenhire said before the Twins beat the Cubs 2-0 on Saturday. “I would put my stock in Luis Castillo catching fly balls. That’s why this grand game is unbelievable _ stuff like that can happen to a Gold Glover. Incredible.”

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