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10/11/2003 12:28 PM ET 
Tag, you're out
Bobble, rundown end Game 3 in 11th for Marlins
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Luis Castillo is caught in a rundown between Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez (top), and third baseman Aramis Ramirez (not pictured). (Alan Diaz/AP)
Luis Castillo gets caught in rundown to end game: 56K | 300K

Caffeine wasn't necessary for fans to stay awake until the end of Chicago's 11-inning victory at Pro Player Stadium. No, that's because Friday's game was good to the last drop
-- or, bobble -- that, fortuitously for the Cubs, produced the final out.

The Florida Marlins, who had rallied from deficits of 2-1 in the seventh and 4-3 in the eighth, couldn't overcome a 5-4 disadvantage in the 11th. But they made it interesting, as did Chicago's defense.

With one out in that last-chance at-bat, Florida's Luis Castillo struck out swinging at a Mike Remlinger wild pitch. The speedy second baseman hustled to first while catcher Paul Bako chased down the ball. That brought to the plate the dangerous Ivan Rodriguez, the man who has made a living out of late-inning heroics at the plate (with his bat and with his glove).

Rodriguez bounced a routine grounder back to the mound, a bouncer that had double play written all over it. But Remlinger didn't field it cleanly, so the only out he could get was Rodriguez at first.

With two outs, Castillo was camped in scoring position, he and his fast legs representing the tying run. Derrek Lee was next, the same Derrek Lee who belted 31 homers and had 92 RBIs in the regular season.

Next, Chicago fans worldwide experienced euphoria, horror and a sense of great fortune all in the span of less than two seconds. Lee hit a simple grounder to the left side of the infield, where third baseman Aramis Ramirez mishandled the ball. It was as if his glove were something out of a kitchen cabinet.

However, with the play in front of him, Castillo had an even more meaningful mishap between second and third. Running into the last out at third, in baseball circles, is a Major League no-no. But how was Castillo to know Ramirez would fumble the ball at his feet, then recover, all in a critical flash, not soon enough to still throw to first and get Lee but soon enough to polish off Castillo in a pickle?

As Dan Le Betard summed up in this morning's Miami Herald:

"Sometimes, the ball skips past Jeff Conine's glove. Sometimes, Manager Jack McKeon's moves don't work. Sometimes, the sparsely used guy from the other team ends up on third base pumping his fist in your quiet stadium. Sometimes, Pudge grounds out to the pitcher when you need a hit, and Luis Castillo gets confused on the bases, and the other team gets the moment, the game, the on-field celebration and the series advantage. Friday was sometimes."

"Speed," the Chicago Sun-Times reported, "betrayed the Marlins at the finish. Luis Castillo is one of their fastest men. ... But Castillo made an error in judgment. Lee was going to be safe at first, and the Marlins could have had runners on first and second.''

Instead, the game was over.

''I can't fault him,'' McKeon said. ''If he had kept running for third, he would have been safe. He probably didn't think [Ramirez] was going to pick it up.''

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel described the bottom of the 11th this way, the half inning that followed Doug Glanville's triple that drove home Kenny Lofton for Chicago.

''Game 3 seemed effectively over,'' the Sun-Sentinel reporter wrote. ''Or was it? With one out, Castillo struck out for the would-be second out. But the ball eluded catcher Damian Miller to allow Castillo to reach first. He went to second on Pudge Rodriguez's out.

''Derrek Lee hit a ground ball to third for the would-be final out. Only it was bobbled. And Lee was safe. But Castillo was stuck in no-man's land, caught in a rundown, trapped like a rat. The Cubs got him out. The game was done.''

And the look on Castillo's and Remlinger's faces said it all: disappointment, exhaustion and tough luck for one side; delight, exhaustion and lottery-winner luck on the other.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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