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Mets’ meltdown resurfaces concerning Subway Series history

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Luis Castillo’s ghost showed up uninvited to Yankee Stadium on Sunday.

It will take time for the Mets to determine if their seventh inning in Game 1 of a doubleheader reverberates as loudly as Castillo’s dropped pop-up more than a decade earlier in the Subway Series, but this epic bullpen meltdown — started by Jared Hughes and finished by Edwin Diaz in an 8-7 loss in eight innings — certainly won’t be forgotten. Only further polluting the day for the Mets, they lost the nightcap 5-2 in eight innings.

“It was a tough day for us,” Diaz said.

In the Mets’ first visit to the new Yankee Stadium, on June 12, 2009, Alex Rodriguez hit a pop-up that should have been the game’s final out. Rodriguez, in disgust, slammed his bat to the ground. But the second baseman Castillo, as he ventured into shallow right-center, dropped the ball, allowing two runs to score, including the game-winner.

Mets
Edwin DiazGetty Images

The Mets collapsed in the weeks following the Castillo blunder, and then-general manager Omar Minaya retroactively pointed to that night at Yankee Stadium as the beginning of the end for their season.

Had the Mets managed to avoid squandering a five-run lead in the seventh inning in Sunday’s first game, they would have been playing for a chance to reach .500 in the nightcap — a significant step for a team that has been fighting uphill since the second week of the abbreviated season.

Gary Sanchez’s pinch-hit grand slam against Drew Smith in the top of the eighth inning in the nightcap (the Yankees were the visiting team) all but sealed the Mets’ Dog Day afternoon and early evening.

“We lost two games and they are definitely tough in a season like this, 60 games,” manager Luis Rojas said.

This Mets meltdown in Game 1 was more methodical than the Castillo flub, beginning with Rojas’ decision with a 7-2 lead to use Hughes for a third straight day over Smith, who had been recalled before the game. Maybe Rojas was vindicated somewhat by Smith’s implosion in the nightcap.

Andres Gimenez’s throwing error on Mike Ford’s grounder to third base in Game 1 was the opening the Yankees needed to begin their comeback. Hughes then recorded two outs before a walk, hit batter and two-run single by Luke Voit made it clear the game wasn’t quite over.

“Drew hasn’t been in games for a while and with the five-run lead Hughes can attack the zone,” Rojas said, explaining his decision to use Hughes over Smith. “On a third [straight] day his sinker can become heavy, he can get the grounders, so we went with him.”

Diaz was summoned to replace Hughes and unleashed a wild pitch that allowed a run before Aaron Hicks homered into the right-field seats. Diaz returned for the eighth and watched Gio Urshela deliver a two-out RBI single (with a runner on second base to begin the inning, per the extra-inning rules for this season) to win it for the Yankees.

Thanks to Luis Castillo, it wasn’t the most crushing loss for the Mets in the history of the regular season Subway Series. But if the Mets just miss the playoffs it could very well turn out that way.

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