Fundamental Things Apply

Sarasota, Fla., March 2, 2020; Tampa Bay 3, Baltimore 3 — It didn’t take us long to decide what to do in the Tampa area on an 80-degree sunny Monday in March with no Yankee game scheduled. Go find another ballgame. We’d covered every city in the area but Bradenton (the Pirates) and Sarasota (the Orioles), and Pittsburgh was not playing at home. Ninety minutes South it was, with the Rays visiting the O’s.

It was hot, but partly cloudy, early, though by the middle innings the sun took over. We had scored great seats, eighth row, just past the third base dugout — an all-day sun spot. I wore a road gray Yankee jersey, but following a few atrocious seasons in Baltimore, there was no trash talk with their fans. Everyone was looking forward to Sunday when the Yankees visit (by which time, alas, my long sojourn South will have ended).

Righthanders Charlie Morton and Asher Wojciechowski got the start. Morton left in the third, his counterpart went a full three. Tampa’s Kevin Cash made an interesting move in the first with two down and Chris Davis, the overpaid power hitter who has experienced back-to-back horrendous offensive seasons, coming to the plate. Word is that Davis has been hitting again and, taking no chances, Cash deployed a different defense. Four outfielders confronted Davis once Cash’s third baseman was moved in between the right and center fielders. And the manager most associated with the recent uses of an opener to start games scored with this move. With two outs and no one on, Davis drove a 1-0 pitch deep to left center, where center fielder Manuel Margot ran under it. It’s likely the ball bounces against the wall with a more conventional setup. But Cash would not utilize this defense again.

The Rays broke through in the top of the fourth when catcher Michael Perez homered to left. But in a game where five of six runs scored on the long ball, Baltimore responded immediately. Davis walked with one down in the home fourth, and third baseman Renato Nunez fouled off the next two pitches. The second foul was a liner into the Rays dugout that caught Tampa minor league outfielder Garrett Whitley in the face. Although Nunez seemed pretty upset, he homered to left for a 2-1 lead four pitches later.

Two frames later, the Rays responded, as right fielder Hunter Renfroe singled, and then pinch runner Jeff Palomaki scored when one-time Yankee Ji-Man Choi cleared the fence the opposite way in left, 3-2 Tampa. All three home runs in this one went to left, two of them stroked by lefthanded batters lifting the ball the other way. But again, the lead did not last long. Pinch hitting for Trey Mancini leading off the home sixth, right fielder Yusniel Diaz tripled to the right center field gap. And Davis’s liner to right scored him two pitches later.

All six runs scored in the fourth and sixth innings. Each team managed two base runners in the last three innings; one each was thrown out trying to steal. Each team had six hits, and the 3-3 tie was over in 2:41. It was a tight game played quickly on a gorgeous day. It’s true that it didn’t mount a lot of excitement, though so why spend a day on a vacation watching it?

On March 2, 1944, the classic film Casablanca became the 16th movie to earn the Academy Award for best picture. It contains some great acting, and makes some fine points about love, and loyalty, and perseverance in the face of strife. Why watch a ballgame on a gorgeous day in March? Remember,

The Fundamental Things Apply