Surprisingly, the roof was open at The Trop last night. It was nice out. They should open it up more often.
Unsurprisingly, the place was filled with Yankees fans.
That actually made me mad at first. There was a light booing as the “home” Rays lineup was announced, except for Lucas Duda, who got a hearty cheer. But Evan Longoria, on the jumbotron, told me to cool it. He said that Citi Field was nice, the staff were treating them well, and the Rays were happy to be there. Asked what he thought about playing in New York for what was supposed to be a home game:
I don’t know if there is a neutral site when we’re playing the Yankees.
Thanks for that, Longo.
The truth is, we in Tampa Bay can afford to not be bothered by a few boos. We were facing down a major hurricane, and, at the last moment, Irma decided to clobber the people south of us instead, passing just to the east so as to push water out of the bay rather than into it. We were a fastball, elevated in the zone, and Irma popped us up. I got to watch a baseball game with my visiting/evacuated parents, secure in the knowledge that they have a house to go back to.
Not everyone is so lucky. Popups are a reminder to open up the checkbooks, because in Naples, in less lucky spots in Tampa Bay, and in life, generally, someone is getting barreled.
But enough thankfulness. I want more. It sure would be nice if the Rays had some better right-handed hitters. We’re stepping through the dying embers of a playoff race, fighting to stave off elimination, and we start Danny Espinosa, Cesar Puello, Peter Bourjos, and Trevor Plouffe? You don’t have to explain the splits to me. I know why those guys were in the game. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.
The Rays got on the board in the second inning when Lucas Duda took a four-pitch walk (hey, why was he even in the game? can’t we find another marginal right-hander? can Curt Casali play first?).
With two outs, Adeiny Hechavarria, who looked to be on top of the ball all night, hit a line drive to the wall in left and raced for a triple.
Five Runs, One Earned
Through three innings, Jake Odorizzi looked really good. We were sitting down the line next to left field, so we couldn’t really see the pitches, but what we could see was that while he might have had trouble locating his splitter where he wanted it, Odorizzi was dropping in his curve early to steal strikes, and that he was blowing people away with his fastball. Lots of swings and misses on the pitch. He was cruising.
Then the second time through the order came around in the fourth inning, and Odorizzi walked Aaron Judge on four pitches, and followed it up by allowing a line drive single to Gary Sanchez. That put runners on the corners with no outs. Danger.
Didi Gregorius sent a fly ball to right that sacrificed home one run, but Odorizzi struck out Starlin Castro, and it seemed like he was going to escape. Matt Holliday hit a grounder down the third base line, and Trevor Plouffe (Longoria was the designated hitter, Plouffe was in the field) had lined up. But the ball went under his glove for a run-scoring E5.
Jacoby Ellsbury reached via catcher interference*, and Todd Frazier hit a no-doubter three-run homer.
*It’s real difficult to see a catcher’s interference from the outfield. Ellsbury hit a foul ball towards us, everyone in front of us stood up, and when they sat back down, Ellsbury was standing at first base rather than in the box. We decided catcher’s interference was the only thing it could be, but it took us a while. “What just happened?” moments are rare when you’re watching on TV. They’re kind of fun.
Hechavarria Hits for the “Cycle”
Y’all saw this too, right? As I said before, Hech was on the ball all night. Even when he fouled it, they were line-drive fouls. In the seconding inning, he hit a line drive to the wall and used his speed to make it a triple. In the fourth inning, his line drive was fielded in short left, so he was held to a single. In the sixth inning, his line drive bounced on the warning track and went out for a ground-rule double.
Then, in the seventh inning, rather than pulling a line drive, Hechavarria hit a fly ball to opposite field. Hech doesn’t hit a lot of home runs, and he’s definitely not known for his opposite-field power, but this drive was majestic. Judge caught it at the warning track, just shy of the 330 ft. sign.
If you’re going to tell me that this was a home game in Citi Field, I’m sorry, but now I have to argue with you. I was there. I saw it. This was not a home game. Nice thought, MLB, but let’s call a duck a duck. Away game.
So now that we’ve got that straightened out, I think we can all agree to consider this game as having been played in Yankee Stadium, where it’s 314 down the right field line.
Some other notes:
- I’ve said this before, but the stereotype about Yankees fans not being able to tell shallow fly balls from home runs is TOTALLY TRUE. I think it probably comes from playing in a ridiculous ballpark where Adeiny Hechavarria has opposite-field power, and from rooting for a team that spends so much energy congratulating itself on remembered and imagined greatness. But go back and listen to the crowd on Jacoby Ellsbury’s sixth-inning flyout. At no point did it look like that ball was even going to make the warning track, but the people around me believed.
- The Yankees wanted to win this game. Up by four, they lifted C.C. Sabathia early and then trotted out David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman. If you like to watch good pitchers in person, that was pretty nice to see. The Rays? Chaz Roe, Andrew Kittredge, Ryne Stanek, Chase Whitley, and then finally the renaissance Sergio Romo. If you like to watch expanded rosters, that was pretty nice to see. But those guys all put up zeroes, so maybe I should quit the snark.
- In addition to seeing him hit for “the cycle,” I got to see Hech do his defensive thing live. Leading off the second inning, Starlin Castro hit a grounder up the middle. It was placed well enough that with most shortstops that’s a base hit into the outfield. It was hit softly enough that even if a shortstop were to be able to keep it on the infield, with Castro running, 10 times out of 11 that’s an infield hit. Hechavarria wears #11. He ranged far to his left, scooped the grounder without leaving his feet, and then he paused. It looked odd, a player being so under control on such scrambly a play, but Hechavarria knew exactly what he was doing—he was loading his body for a pirouette, and the result was an accurate throw that was far stronger than I expected. I’ve seen Andrelton Simmons in person before, but I’ve never been in the stands when Simmons made the type of play you put a star on, so this was my first time seeing an elite shortstop do his thing. It’s something else.
- While Irma churned toward the Florida coast, Michael Friedman died, unexpectedly (for me at least), of complications from HIV/AIDS. Friedman wrote musicals. I don’t know if he had a home style—a type of music he’d write given no subject-matter-specific artistic considerations—but he was an incredible chameleon, immersing himself in the world he was trying to write, and making it seem like home. If you listened only to his music, you might think him a soulful R&B crooner, an angsty punk rocker, or a refined Italian Renaissance preservationist. If you knew him, it was hard to see him as any of these things. He was wildly enthusiastic, bordering on the ridiculous. He cared about ideas. He worried. Taking turns at being so many different things, I’m not sure he was ever entirely comfortable. I can’t quite connect this metaphor up, but neither am I going to delete the bullet point. Something about Michael Friedman was like being at home in New York against the Yankees. Also, imagine some pun about hitting for the song cycle. Point is that he was good, and worth tipping the cap to.