A major league baseball game was played in Montreal for the first time in almost ten years. September 27, 2004 was the date of the last professional baseball game played in Montreal. A long decade without baseball is what fans of the sport in Montreal have had to endure. While this was not their team playing and was just a preseason game they still got to enjoy watching some of the best players in the world ply their trade.
Over the weekend in Montreal there was not only going to be the two games, but a whole bunch of activities and ceremonies surrounding them. On this evening before the 7:05 p.m. scheduled first pitch there was a touching ceremony concerning one of the best players to ever wear a Montreal Expos’ uniform. Gary Carter proudly wore a Montreal Expos’ uniform for 11 years and his talent and the enthusiastic way he played the game made him a fan favourite here. Carter died in 2010 from brain cancer at the very young age of 57 years of age. In a tribute to all he gave to the city a sign was unveiled on the right field wall. Carter’s wife Sandy and his daughter Kimmy were there representing the family and they were accompanied by a couple of Carter’s Montreal teammates – Tim Raines, Warren Cromartie and Steve Rogers – as a tribute video by Montreal rapper Annakin Slayd called “The Kid” was shown on the big screen.
By the time the first pitch was thrown by Blue Jays veteran left hander Mark Buerhle almost every seat was occupied and an electric nature had grabbed hold of the stadium. Rounds of “Let’s go Expos” broke out throughout the 9 innings of the game. Thousands of fans wore Expos hats, t-shirts, uniforms, and jackets. For one weekend at least it was like Nos Amours were back again. The large crowd (46,121) proved once again that Montreal is an event city as well as reminding those that are in charge of MLB that Montreal is also a city that loves baseball.
During the preseason and early on during the MLB season pitchers have the advantage over hitters. They get back into full form quicker than do hitters, so hitting and scores are down somewhat in the beginning. This was the case Friday night at the decrepit Olympic Stadium. It took a while for the bats to come alive, but they did when it counted most.
The first 3 innings moved along swiftly as neither team scored any runs. Once the runs started they came at a regular clip over the last 6 innings. In the 4th inning it was the visitors, the Mets, who took the lead 2-1 courtesy of 2 runs in the top of the 4th off starter Buerhle. After Daniel Murphy grounded out to 1st, the game’s scoring began with a soft single to right by Mets’ 3rd baseman David Wright. Next up was the Mets’ centerfielder Curtis Granderson, recently of the New York Yankees and signed as a free agent over the winter, who walked on 6 pitches. It was Chris Young who cashed them in with a line drive into right field allowing Wright and Granderson to score.
In the bottom of the 4th the Blue Jays got one run back courtesy of a home run by Jose Bautista. Bautista received the first of the in-game standing ovations for his effort. The Blue Jays could not add any runs despite a walk to Adam Lind and a double by centerfielder Colby Rasmus. This allowed the Mets to add to their lead in the top of the 5th.
Buerhle’s day was over and he was replaced by Casey Janssen to begin the 5th. Janssen right away was in trouble. The second batter he faced, Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejeda doubled on a line drive to left field. After a ground out by Eric Young, Daniel Murphy knocked Tejeda home via his own double to left field. 3-1 Mets.
In the bottom of the 5th Mets’ starter Jenrry Mejia was hit on the arm by a grounder his sharply up the middle by Ryan Goins. Though he seemed alright Mets’ manager Terry Collins decided to go to his bullpen. Carlos Torres came in to pitch.
Toronto got back a run in the bottom of the 6th. Offensive star of the game, Edward Encarnacion opened the inning with a double into left. After a Lind ground out that advanced Encarnacion to 3rd, he scored on a sacrifice fly in foul territory in left field by Dioner Navarro. 3-2 Mets.
Right away New York regained their lead in the 7th. Marcus Stroman came in to replace Sergio Santos and was greeted by a line drive home run that left the park quickly off the bat of former Blue Jays property Travis d’Arnaud.
Once again the Blue Jays clawed their was back into the game with 2 runs in the bottom of the 7th. Bottom of the 7th Gonzalez German replaced Torres and he gave up a run. Replacement players Maicer Izturis (shortstop) and Munenori Kawasaki led off the inning with back-to-back singles. The runners were then advanced due to a wild pitch by German and then Encanacion cashed them both in on a single to left field. He tested the arm of left fielder Eric Campbell and was thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double for the 3rd out of the inning.
Neither team scored in the 8th and Jeremy Jerness, who came in in the 8th in relief of Marcus Stroman, shut down the Mets in the top of the 9th. Now we were going to the bottom of the 9th tied at 4-4. The sparkplug Kawasaki doubled on a line drive into left to lead off the inning. After Melky Cabrera grounded out Kawasaki advanced to 3rd base. Moises Sierra popped out and Encarnacion was hit by a pitch by Bobby Parnell. The next batter was Jonathan Diaz and he singled home the winning run with a single into center. Blue Jays victory 5-4!
On this evening the fans in Montreal were out for the love of baseball and the Expos, but were cheering for the Blue Jays and did not go home disappointed. It was also obvious that if this was the city of Montreal’s appeal to get MLB back in town it was a rousing success.
-Innings: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
New York – 0 0 0 2 1 0 1 0 0
Toronto – 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 0 1
-Hits: Toronto – 13
New York – 9
-Errors: Toronto – 1
New York – 0
-Winning Pitcher: Toronto – Jeremy Jeffress
-Losing Pitcher: New York – Bobby Parnell
-Final Score: Toronto – 5
New York – 4