It was a Rays home game because the schedule said so. It was a Yankees home game because almost everyone in the stands said so with their cheering. It was a Mets home game because it is their home, and they did the work to put it together.
Also, it was a Lucas Duda home game because he was set up in his old locker in the clubhouse on the first-base side. That was not by request, but it was appreciated as a sign of hospitality. So was the fact that the Rays were given total run of the Citi Field video room, where someone posted intense-looking headshots of Duda wearing a Mets helmet.
Most of all, it was unusual, what with the Rays having been displaced from Tropicana Field because of Hurricane Irma and sent by Major League Baseball to Queens for a three-game “home” series.
“You would not draw up a home game against the Yankees in New York in a wild-card chase,” Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. said. “But we’re just thankful to have a place to play.
“This is a beautiful clubhouse, a beautiful stadium. We’re very thankful to the Mets to open it up for us. It’s just a strange situation.”
For Duda, it was a unique night amid all the other uniqueness. For him, it was a homecoming, six weeks after he was traded. “I am definitely thankful to the Mets organization, to the people who brought me up and got me to the big leagues,” he said. “This was the first place I had been in the big leagues and I will always have a deep connection here.”
For everyone else on his team, as Wednesday’s scheduled starter Chris Archer said, “It’s not the most ideal situation but it’s not the worst.”
The Rays understood there were not enough four- or five-star hotel rooms in another city to accommodate two teams. Plus, they were relieved that their loved ones were all safe and that the damage to the Tampa Bay area was not as severe as they had feared. Players had speculated that the dome at Tropicana Field might blow off.
So they were relaxed as they went out for batting practice, greeted by Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York.”
Thereafter, the night was a rare mix. The big screen in centerfield showed the Rays’ usual pregame video. Players were introduced by Mets public address announcer Alex Anthony. “Mets” remained painted on the grass behind the plate. Each on-deck circle was a big Mets logo.
Otherwise, it was all Yankees. Their fans just about filled the lower bowl (the top two decks were closed). They sang the roll call, a Yankee Stadium bleacher tradition. They chanted “Let’s go, Yankees!” They roared when Todd Frazier smacked a three-run homer in the five-run fourth.
Frazier, recalling the trauma inflicted by superstorm Sandy to his New Jersey hometown, said, “We might look back 10, 15 years from now and say, ‘It was different, playing against a team in a different city,’ but right now our mind-set is on the people in Florida and Texas, as well.”
During this uncommon game at Citi Field, though, the prevailing mind-set was on the side that truly was the home team. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said, “I don’t know that there is a neutral site when you’re playing the Yankees.”
Mass transit recommended. The Mets are strongly suggesting that fans attending the games Tuesday and Wednesday use mass transit. Parking is extremely limited because of preparations for the Meadows Music Festival this weekend.