Toronto Blue Jays’ Melky Cabrera watches the ball go over the wall for a two-run homerun off New York Mets pitcher Adam Kolarek during eight inning pre-season game action Saturday in Montreal.
Photograph by: Paul Chiasson, THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL - A big, noisy dome packed with 50,229 Montreal Expos fans seemed to suit Toronto Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow.
The right-hander threw 5.2 scoreless innings and Melky Cabrera hit a two-run home run to give the Blue Jays a 2-0 victory over the New York Mets on Saturday and a sweep of their two-game pre-season series at Olympic Stadium.
Four Blue Jays pitchers held New York to only two hits in a promising outing in their final exhibition game ahead of opening day next week in Tampa.
"It was a lot of fun," said Morrow. "Both games were really exciting.
"The crowd was into it the whole time. They did a good job of putting on these games. It was a tune-up start. There were things I've been working on up to this point, but I tried to put it all together today."
Moises Sierra was on third with two out in the eighth when Cabrera pounded an offering from lefty Adam Kolarek over the left-field wall to break a scoreless tie.
Toronto (16-13 in pre-season play) had beaten the Mets 5-4 on Ricardo Nanita's ninth-inning single before 46,121 on Friday night. The Mets ended their pre-season at 14-16.
New York right-fielder Curtis Granderson was impressed with the atmosphere, especially for a pre-season game.
"It was loud," he said. "The Canadian fans came out in droves.
"It was amazing to see all the different jerseys out there. That means baseball is alive and well in Montreal. People were looking forward, and they enjoyed these two games here. It was great. It was cool to see and to get a chance to be a part of."
The games were organized mainly to show the world that Montreal wants major league baseball back. The fans' response was overwhelming, with a total of 96,350 attending the two games, mostly chanting "Let's go Expos" and "We want baseball."
It wasn't as joyous for one unidentified fan who suffered serious injuries Friday night when he fell from the outfield bleachers onto the stadium's concrete floor. Police ruled it an accident.
Morrow, who struck out eight, is looking to rebound from an injury-plagued 2013 campaign in which he went 2-3 in only 54.1 innings. The year before, he was a 10-game winner with a 2.96 earned-run average.
"I've got a bit of a chip on my shoulder as far as that goes," said Morrow. "You don't want to be labelled as somebody injury-prone. My goal is to make every start this year. I had a positive spring, so I'm feeling good about it."
Aaron Loup and Steve Delabar each got a pair of outs before Aaron Sanchez closed the game out with two solid innings. Sanchez is slated to be returned to the minors, but loved the experience of doing well in a packed house.
"It was crazy," said Sanchez. "This is everything I've worked for. It gives you a little taste of it and it makes you want to come back."
Manager John Gibbons is hoping his club can answer its critics with a strong season after a disappointing 2013.
"We think we're ready,"he said. "The guys showed up with a little different focus because of what happened last year. But last year we were getting tugged in every which direction. The media coverage was out of control. We had so many new players and everybody wanted a piece of them. Then we had the (World Baseball Classic) and that was a bit of a distraction.
"This team was put together to win something and we didn't do that last year, but we all have confidence in this ball club."
The Mets' Daisuke Matsusaka didn't allow a run in five innings, also striking out eight but conceding five hits.
The event was organized by concert promoter Evenko and the Montreal Baseball Project, headed by former Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie.
John McHale Jr., an MLB vice-president whose father was the Expos' original president, was impressed with the turnout. Montreal saw its team move to Washington in 2004 largely due to lack of fans.
"This market had likely lost the intense enthusiasm it once had for major league baseball, so I think this requires us to recalibrate our estimation of how popular our sport might be," said McHale Jr., who added he had met with Cromartie.
"They're in an unpredictable process with no certainty of success," he said.