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On August 9, 1996, Luis Castillo was a gung-ho rookie second baseman, about to play in his second major-league game in Florida, against the New York Mets.

On that same date, Tom Glavine, located slightly north in Atlanta, was efforting in an attept to win career game number 137 against the Colorado Rockies.

Tonight they unify in a common goal (presuming Castillo shows up in Milwaukee), in an attempt to get Castillo off on the right foot and earn Glavine a historic milestone.

But perhaps Glavine would have reached this mark a little sooner had the Mets won the battle for Castillo's services when he was previously a free agent.

The value of having someone like Castillo as your second baseman could be seen on that particular August date, 11 years ago.

It was a night in which the Mets starting lineup featured Alvaro Espinoza at third base (how far they've come since) and featured one of the finest pitching performances of Robert Person's career. The only blemish through seven innings wa caused by Castillo, who reached on an infield chopper in the 4th, advanced to second when Person threw the ball away, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jeff Conine. Person allowed only two hits through seven innings and left with the score even, 1-1.

Elsewhere, Glavine held a 4-1 lead through five innings against the Rockies, though it would have been 4-0 were it not for an error by his second baseman, Mark Lemke. That forced some extra work, and perhaps led to Glavine's being removed sooner than Bobby Cox would have liked, after a double and two bunt hits loaded the bases for the Rockies with no outs, and the Braves up 4-2 in the seventh.

Back to Florida where Mets messups weren't helping matters. Todd Hundley got doubled off second base in the sixth, Bernard Gilkey was caught trying to steal third in the eighth, and Lance Johnson hit into a 4-3 double play, started by Castillo, when the game went bonus frames in the 10th.

In Atlanta, with Glavine out, Cox went to one-minute Met Brad Clontz to try to fix matters, but Clontz pulled a Joe Smith. All three of Glavine's runners scored, the last two on a hit by future NeverMet (spring invitee) Andres Galarraga. The Rockies went ahead 5-4, and won 6-4, denying Glavine the win that, had things continued along, would have allowed him to win #300 at home last week.

Frustration reverberated in Florida, where the Marlins pulled out the win in the bottom of the 10th. Alex Arias led off against Doug Henry, fell behind 0-2, then walked, foreshadowing the doom to come. Pure evil third baseman Terry Pendleton (sorry, but the pain from '87 still stings) followed with a sacrifice to advance Arias to second. After striking out Marlins catcher Joe Siddall, Henry was left with the choice of facing veteran Joe Orsulak, or bypassing him for the rookie, Castillo.

The Mets took their chances with Castillo. After the intentional walk, Henry got ahead of Castillo 1-2, but Castillo showed then that he's a tough guy to get out. He slapped a single up the middle, scoring Arias with the game-winning run.

Don't be surprised if Castillo is a little shaky today. He doesn't necessarily make the best first impression (he was hitless in his debut the day before the walk-off), but tends to do alright the next time around.

''I was nervous yesterday,'' Castillo told the media after his second big-league game. ''But today was more relaxed. I wanted to show this team what I had to offer. This was important for me because it gives me confidence.''

True Metstillos know...That there's another reason Tom Glavine should be happy to have Luis Castillo as a teammate. Castillo has 11 hits in his last 17 at-bats against Glavine. For his career, Castillo is a .384 career hitter against Glavine. His 28 hits against Glavine are his most against any MLB pitcher.


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