It was decided last Thursday that Tampa Bay’s three game home set with the Yankees this week wouldn’t work at the Trop in St. Pete given the forecasted severity of Irma’s weekend punch. So, after discussion between the teams – and MLB – here we were in Queens on Monday night with an odd situation.
Yanks and Rays at Citi Field in Flushing with Tampa wearing the home white pants, batting last.
The Mets are out of town all this week so their yard was available. The Rays were wrapping up a weekend series in Boston and knew they couldn’t make a case for using the Trop so soon after the storm.
The home parks used by the White Sox, Orioles and Pirates were all said to be explored as options to gain at least some neutrality for the Rays but hotel space was a problem.
That’s where Queens came in. It’s an easy trip from Beantown for the Rays – and of course – the Yankees loved the idea. What likely clinched it is that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is a New York guy who wants to perhaps someday take his franchise elsewhere and wishes to be viewed by his fellow owners as a go along to get along guy.
But what a blunder it turned out to be for Tampa to agree to play these “home” dates at this “neutral” site. Monday night’s 5-1 Yankee win at the ballpark in Queens was more of a home game for the Yankees than even their own vaunted Yankee Stadium.
Tickets went on sale Saturday morning for a flat $25 via the Mets web site. Even the best seats behind home plate and the dugouts were 25 bucks with no fees. Yankee fans bought them in droves.
The home court advantage for the Yankees was intensified by the fact that only the first level of Citi Field was open. The second and third decks were closed off.
So what you had was a completely full (except for the right-center field seats) lower bowl with Yankee fans happy to be sitting in such great seats for relatively little cost. On top of the joyousness over ticket cost, it seemed to me Yankee fans on hand derived some pleasure from wiping their feet on the welcome mat laid out by their cross-town rival during a pennant race. Fred Wilpon also had to agree to this deal, remember, and he got enough ticket-takers, beer vendors and ushers on short notice to pull it off.
If I was Sternberg – or any of the Rays players – I would have been aggravated by the boos when starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi and Tampa took the field in the top of the first inning. This is their home game – and they agreed to play in Queens as orphans or refugees of sorts – yet they faced the kind of hostility a typical road team would normally face.
The other subtext last night was that it was 9-11. It remains a heavy day here. There were remembrances during the ballgame and it seemed to ratchet up the intensity of the crowd even more.
On the field, the game’s turning point came bottom five. C-C was pretty much cruising with a four-run lead. He walked Bourjos, struck out Kiermaier and gave up a single to Plouffe. He was at 88 pitches at that point and forever baseball has allowed the veteran starter to finish the fifth inning to insure the decision. This was C-C’s game for at least another inning or two. But out came Joe with the hook that stunned everybody including C-C. In came Robertson who struck out Longoria and Duda.
The unconventional move by Girardi totally worked but C-C appeared aggravated as he put his chin on the dugout railing and watched in disbelief.
Joe might be inspired by Francona’s deployment of Andrew Miller early in games to put out potential fires.
Robertson could be Joe’s Andrew Miller. We’ll see. Credit Joe for allowing Chapman to float to the surface after the long sink job post-break and overall dexterity with bullpen issues.
I bought a $25 seat about two hours before game time at the box office. All the good seats were snatched up at that point so I was assigned a seat in left field. I watched the Yanks take batting practice from out there then roved into a standing position behind the box seats on the first base line.
This was my first in-person look at Aaron Judge. He hit a couple bombs in BP but went 0 for 3 with two walks in the game. His name is on the back of more shirts than any other notable Bomber including Jeter right now. As I watched him interact with other players, umpires and fans Monday night, he seemed to have a real gentle, genial approach.
-I voted Tuesday in the city’s party primary election. Only two offices were at stake on my ballot. The popular incumbents Bill de Blasio (mayor) and Tish James (public advocate) faced primary challenges although neither have any risk of losing. When I entered my polling place at about 2 PM, the poll worker tasked with greeting voters and steering them toward the table containing the sign-off book that corresponds with one’s assigned election district was napping. The guy had literally dozed off. There was not a single voter other than me during the three or four minutes I was there.