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Fennelly: Irma making the rules as it approaches

ST. PETERSBURG

The announced crowd at Tuesday night’s Rays game against the Minnesota Twins was 6,509 – the smallest crowd for a Rays game in their 20 years at Tropicana Field.

Normally, that would be cause for laughter or another attendance rant. How could so few fans show up for a game with actual playoff implications? I’m sure attendance will come up again down the road.

Tuesday wasn’t normal. Nothing is normal right now.

“I’d totally understand if there were 10 people here tonight,” Rays manager and Tampa native Kevin Cash said after the Rays beat the Twins, 2-1.

“It was definitely great to pull out a win,” Rays outfielder Steve Souza Jr. said. “But we’ve all got bigger things to worry about. We know what’s out there.”

Irma is out there.

Major League Baseball, knowing it dropped the ball when dispatching the Astros to St. Petersburg for three series here while Harvey ravaged Houston, should consider telling the Rays to stay home and hunker down with their community.

The NFL has moved the Bucs-Dolphins game to November. It was the right thing to do. It was the only thing to do. Irma is making the rules.

The Rays and Twins conclude their three-game series this afternoon at the Trop. There might be more people in a Home Depot than at this ballgame. Understandable.

Irma is on everyone’s minds, including Rays players who are about to head out on a road trip to Boston, where they play this weekend.

The 6,509 who were there Tuesday were treated to a big win, as the Rays pulled stayed in the race for the second wild card.

They watched as Rays starter Jake Odorozzi took a no-hitter into the seventh before a Joe Mauer grounder up the middle bonked off second base for a single.

They watched a slumping Lucas Duda, thrust into the cleanup spot for Logan Morrison, out with the stomach flu, deliver a home run and an RBI double.

They saw a great game.

If you missed it, well, that’s good, too.

“Oh, yeah, with the hurricane coming, I can understand it completely,” Cash said. “The thoughts going through many families and what they’re preparing for.”

“We were discussing it before the game,” Souza said. “We weren’t expecting 20,000. We don’t get that on a normal day. But we’ve all got families. We all own cars. Everybody has something.”

While Souza and his teammates head to Boston, his wife and son will travel to friends in Atlanta to wait out Irma.

“We packed up everything,” Souza said. “We’re right on the water, near St. Pete Beach. We’re renting, but we packed up everything that’s ours. If this hits anything like Harvey, this house will be down.”

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria lives on the water in St. Petersburg, on Tampa Bay.

“My backyard is the water,” Longoria said. “This isn’t the time to think about material things. You just make sure everyone is safe.”

Longoria’s wife and two children are heading to Arizona, where the family makes its home in the offseason. The third baseman heads to Boston.

“You bring in everything from the backyard and get everything closed up,” Longoria said. “You hope for the best when you get back.”

Baseball doesn’t matter. Nor does crowd size at the Trop.

We’re in this together.

“You just have to trust in the Lord,” Souza said.

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