ST. PETERSBURG - I caught up with the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. Actually, I passed them. It's all the rage. Boy, even the Devil Rays hardly ever did this. So went the big-Trop boo-boo to help seal a 6-3 loss to Baltimore, which took the season-opening series.
Evan Longoria, the man himself, was called out by the first-base umpire for passing Ben Zobrist, the runner in front of him, between first and second base. Oh, the Rays were right in the middle of a ninth-inning rally, Longoria apparently having doubled off the wall in left center with two men on with the lads down 6-2 to the Orioles. Longoria thought it was a lousy call. Zobrist blamed himself. And a calliope played. They wuz robbed? Hey, how about getting Chris Davis out this century, then complaining? Longoria was credited with a single and his first RBI of the season and was dispatched to the dugout. The Rays went from second and third, no outs, to Zobrist on third, one out. The rally died from there. We have watched the replay several hundred times, and all I can say is that what really surprised me Thursday is that Davis didn't pass himself on the base paths, what with how his hits ran together this series. Thursday, he had another homer and four more RBIs, for three homers, three doubles and 11 RBIs in three games. If Rays starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez had given up one more knock to Davis, he'd have changed his name again. Strange, but first-base umpire James Hoye had his back to both Zobrist and Longoria for the longest time. But I think he was right. And the Rays went from late magic to late comedy, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Abbott and Costello's iconic routine, “Zo's on First?” I give credit to Zobrist, the nicest man in baseball, a true son of Mayberry, for shouldering the blame, saying he probably should have been closer to second base than first after Longoria's moon ball. Longoria acted generally blameless, which is too bad. I don't think he said it was a bad call strictly out of embarrassment — but I still say this is on him. He should have kept Zobrist in his field of vision, but didn't. If they're in cars instead of cleats, Longoria gets the ticket for rear-ending. Lost in all of this is that Baltimore came in and took two of three. Lost is that the turning point wasn't the ninth inning Thursday. Rather, it was St. Patrick's Day 1985, when the Davis family welcomed not-so-little Christopher Lyn Davis into the world. I think he came out with a shillelagh in his hands. Davis, a very strong human being who is wanted in several states for killing mistake pitches, went completely insane this series. At one point, Hernandez plunked Davis near his right hip. Next time up, Davis took a Hernandez sinker and went the other way with a double to left center to break a 2-2 tie. Hernandez pitched OK in his first Rays start. I gave him a low B, though Auburn later changed it to an A. Lost in all that, unless you normally watch the Rays hit, or not hit, is that Adam Jones was hitting in front of Davis and Matt Wieters was hitting behind Davis. Now that's a middle of the order. Funny, but at one point Thursday, with it 2-2 and two runners on in the sixth, I thought Joe Maddon, mad scientist, would walk Davis to load the bases (I would have), only then the Rays would have had to pitch to Wieters, another bopper. The Rays would love that kind of love behind Longoria in the order. Zobrist, who bats in front of Longoria, can't bat in back of him, too, though after watching that ninth Thursday, well, maybe he can. Chris Davis should be back in Baltimore by now, moving into Babe Ruth's boyhood home. There's a report on the Internet that Davis initially refused to leave the Trop on Thursday, and requested a trade to the Indians, who play the Rays here tonight. Baseball is one crazy game. It doesn't get crazier than Thursday.