It was the night of June 12, 2009, in the first game of the Subway Series at the new Yankee Stadium. The New York Mets were clinging to an 8-7 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning. New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was at-bat. Mets Reliever Francisco Rodriguez was on the mound looking to earn the save. A-Rod swings at a K-Rod curveball and pops up in the direction of Mets second baseman Luis Castillo and… before we get into that, let’s see how A-Rod, K-Rod, and Luis Castillo are forever linked.

Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod)

The baseball player who became A-Rod was the number one overall pick by the Seattle Mariners in the 1993 MLB Draft. In his first full season in 1996, he was an All-Star and finished second in the MVP voting. A-Rod was in a core group with Ken Griffey, Jr., Edgar Martinez, and Randy Johnson who expected to challenge the Yankees in the American League.

A-Rod put up solid numbers in five full seasons with the Mariners, leading the AL in doubles in 1996 and total hits in 1998. However, the Mariners couldn’t get past the Yankees in 2000 as the Bronx Bombers defeated them in the ALCS. Mariner fans hoped A-Rod would stay in Seattle following the bitter divorces with Griffey and Johnson in 2000. At that point, A-Rod was a franchise cornerstone, but he spurned the club for the division rival Texas Rangers in 2001. The shortstop continued to put up gaudy numbers and won his first of his two league MVPs and Gold Gloves as a Ranger. But he couldn’t match the success as a team as he did in Seattle. In 2004, A-Rod was traded to the Yankees.

As A-Rod transitioned to third base, he continued to put up MVP-type numbers and won the award in 2007. But he struggled in the post-season, putting up pedestrian numbers between 2004 and 2007 and the criticism piled on.

Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod)

Francisco Rodriguez signed with the Angels in 1998. The Venezuelan came up through the then-Anaheim Angels’ minor league system originally as a starting pitcher. But after injuries, he converted to a relief role. Rodriguez earned a call up to Anaheim in September of the 2002 season to help the Angels’ bullpen. His curveball was damn near unhittable and he quickly became a key part of the Angels’ postseason run that earned the franchises’ first World Series win. For the next two seasons, Rodriguez earned the setup role for the Angels in 2003 and earned his first All-Star in 2004. In 2005, the man now known as ‘K-Rod’ became the Angels’ reliever full time following Troy Percival’s departure as a free agent.

K-Rod’s save totals increased from year to year from 2005 to 2008. He finished the 2005 season tied for the AL lead in saves with 45. In 2006, he led the AL with 47 saves, and in 2007, his save numbers slipped to 40. However, K-Rod was elected to his second All-Star game and earned the save for the AL in the All-Star game. K-Rod’s best season would come in 2008; he became the first pitcher in MLB history to earn 35 saves before the All-Star break. K-Rod broke Bobby Thigpen’s 18-year old saves record on September 13, 2008 and finished the season with 62 saves. He finished third in the Cy Young voting.

K-Rod would take his talents to Queens for the 2009 season, signing a three-year deal with the Mets, who were looking to solidify their bullpen.

Luis Castillo

Castillo signed as an undrafted free agent by the then-Florida Marlins in 1992. In 1996, he made his debut – interestingly enough – against the Mets on August 8, driving in the winning run in a 10-inning game. Castillo started the 1997 season in Florida, but an injury in May kept him out of the lineup. He remained in Triple-A until August 1998 and would remain with the team full-time. Castillo was the stolen base champion in the 2000 and 2002 season and was part of the Marlins team that beat the Yankees in the 2003 World Series. He was an NL All-Star in 2002, 2003, and 2005 as he became one of the most dependable second basemen in baseball.

Castillo was traded to the Minnesota Twins after the 2005 season and helped the Twins win an AL Central division title. One day before the trade deadline in 2007, he was traded to the Mets. After an injury-marred 2008, Castillo returned to the Mets in 2009 and was enjoying a nice bounce-back season.

Then came the night of June 12, 2009…

And here’s where A-Rod, K-Rod, and Luis Castillo are forever linked. With two on and two out, K-Rod hurled a 94 MPH curveball down and in on a 3-1 pitch, which A-Rod popped up. The Yankee slugger slammed his bat in disgust and trotted towards first base. K-Rod pointed the ball in the air and flaunted his patented fist pump in early celebration as if to assume a sure out. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira started running as if their lives depended on it. The ball ascended in the air in Castillo’s direction as the second baseman drifted into shallow right field.

Castillo settled under the descending ball and then… I’ll let YES play-by-play announcer Michael Kay take the call.

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The ball looks to have hit the bottom of the palm area of his mitt. Jeter had scored from second and Teixeira was rounding third. Here’s the peculiar part: after Castillo dropped the ball, he slips and falls to the ground in search of the ball. He assumes Teixeira is heading to second for the force out. Castillo almost casually tosses the ball to shortstop Alex Cora, who is now covering second base, as Teixeira is rounding third. Cora throws a bullet towards home to catcher Omir Santos, but it’s too late. Yankees win, 9-8.

The lasting images are the Yankees celebrating, K-Rod in shock, and Castillo walking off the field in disgust.

Epilogue

Following this game, the careers of A-Rod, K-Rod, and Luis Castillo go in different directions.

This game was the second walk-off win for the New York Yankees in 2009. They would go on to record 13 additional walk-off wins en route to their 27th World Series title. A-Rod became an integral part of the Yankees’ postseason run with his bat AND his glove. He retired in August 2016. A-Rod now splits time as an analyst with Fox Sports and as Jennifer Lopez’s refreshingly dorky fiancé.

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After the blown save in this game, K-Rod still became an All-Star in 2009. He finished with 35 saves in 42 opportunities, making it five consecutive seasons with 30 or more saves. K-Rod was traded to Milwaukee in July 2011 and helped the Brewers advance to the NLCS.  In July 2013, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles but returned to the Brewers for the 2014 season. K-Rod finished his career with the Detroit Tigers after the 2017 season. He is fourth on the all-time career saves list with 437.

Castillo still had a pretty solid season though the Mets were… well, the Mets. Castillo finished with a .302 BA and had 20 steals in 2009. In 2010, Castillo split time with Ruben Tejada as he spent time on the DL with foot problems. He was released by the Mets on March 18, 2011, and never appeared on another MLB roster.

I enjoy a good deep dive and you’re looking for more of those, check out my article on Vince Carter and the Dunk of Death! Feel free to follow me on Twitter – @WhoIsRyanMcC. Check out my show A-Round for the Weekend (@BellyUpAFTW on Periscope and simulcast to Twitter) on Fridays at 6:30 pm EST!

About Author

Ryan McCarthy

Ryan is a veteran of sports blogging since Al Gore invented the Internet. He has spent time with SportsHungry, e-sports.com, and ArenaFan. Ryan is a 2020 graduate from Regent University as a Journalism major. He hopes to make this sports media thing a full-time gig someday.

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