SAN DIEGO — The 2020 baseball season has spawned an endless list of oddities.
It was the case from the time spring training rebooted in early July and it continued unabated throughout a coronavirus-shortened regular season, to the point that anything strange or out-of-the-blue elicited a shake of the head and a one-word answer that always seemed to say it all:
"2020," more than one player/manager/executive has uttered.
The Division Series has brought about several more strange occurrences, not the least of which is this:
The Yankees and Rays, two teams that will play what is anticipated to be a bloodbath of a best-of-five series starting Monday and who in general despise each other, are staying in the same San Diego-area hotel. That's the result of the COVID-19 protocols in place for the postseason.
"I expect both teams to be professional at the hotel," reliever Zack Britton said Saturday before the Yankees’ workout at Petco Park. "There's families there. I wouldn’t expect that [emotions from the regular season] to carry over away from the field. It’s all about the competition on the field. Obviously, we're two passionate teams, [but] I don't expect there to be any issues in the hotel. And if we see each other, I'm sure it’ll be a friendly nod and just go about our business."
A smiling Aaron Boone said: "It’s a little unique being at the same hotel with your opponent, but again, baseball in 2020."
The Yankees arrived at the hotel, located about a 45-minute drive from Petco Park in downtown San Diego, on Friday morning, and the Rays got in Friday night.
Brett Gardner said he already had run into a few Rays players at the hotel.
"I saw a few guys last night and this morning, just said ‘hey’ to a couple walking in," said Gardner, who as the longest-tenured Yankee has viewed what in recent years has become an increasingly heated rivalry. "We’ve got a group of guys that’s very professional and it’s business as usual. It may not be ideal, but it's a big resort and we've got a lot of space and so far it's been good."
The Yankees were far from good this season against the Rays, who outscored them 47-34 in winning eight of 10 meetings, more than a few of which were tension-packed affairs.
To name one, there was the second game of an Aug. 8 doubleheader in St. Petersburg, Florida, when Boone and hitting coach Marcus Thames were ejected by plate umpire Vic Carapazza after the two noisily objected to three up-and-in pitches by Rays pitchers during at-bats by DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela.
In a sequence many in the game — including in both clubhouses — viewed as retribution, Aroldis Chapman threw a 101-mph fastball near the head of Mike Brosseau in closing out a 5-3 victory Sept. 1, engendering fiery responses from the Rays.
"I’ve got a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 miles an hour," Rays manager Kevin Cash said afterward. His comment was the inspiration for a T-shirt that quickly became a popular item in his clubhouse.
On Friday, Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier fanned the flames.
"They don't like us, we don't like them," he said. "It's going to continue to stay that way."
Gardner, citing "a lot of back-and-forth" that has taken place between the clubs of late, said: "I think the feeling is probably mutual." However, he added a bigger-picture element.
"It's up to us to go out and play better against these guys," he said. "Obviously, some drama between the two teams over the course of the season, but for me, I think for our group, the focus is simply on winning each and every single day, trying to find a way to beat these guys in a five-game series and move on to the LCS.
"Doing what we can to prepare and to go out and play the way we just did against Cleveland and hopefully [put] our energy and our focus into that and not worry about the things that happened in the past."