MONTREAL (AP) Melky Cabrera’s two-run homer in the eighth inning gave the Toronto Blue Jays a 2-0 victory over the New York Mets on Saturday and a sweep of their two-game exhibition series at an Olympic Stadium packed with former Montreal Expos fans.
Moises Sierra was on third with two outs when Cabrera connected off left-hander Adam Kolarek.
Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow pitched six sharp innings, allowing two hits and striking out eight in the spring training finale for both teams in front of 50,229. Aaron Sanchez pitched two innings for the win.
”It was a lot of fun,” Morrow said. ”Both games were really exciting.”
Mets right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka also struck out eight and gave up five hits in five scoreless innings, but was sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas after the game – making Jenrry Mejia the team’s No. 5 starter.
Toronto also beat the Mets 5-4 before a crowd of 46,121 on Friday night. The games were organized in an effort to show that Montreal wants Major League Baseball back. A total of 96,350 fans attended the two games, mostly chanting ”Let’s go Expos!” and ”We want baseball!”
”The crowd was into it the whole time,” Morrow said. ”They did a good job of putting on these games.”
Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson agreed, adding that the fans were enthusiastic.
”It was amazing to see all the different jerseys out there,” he said. ”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 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,” McHale said, adding that he had met with Cromartie.
”They’re in an unpredictable process with no certainty of success,” he said.
The 1994 Expos were honored during a pregame ceremony, honoring the team that led baseball with a 74-40 record only to see the regular season and playoffs wiped out in August by a players strike.
Mets: Despite a strong start and solid spring, Matsuzaka will start the season in the minors – a move that surprised him.
”I’ve had confidence in what I’ve been doing these last few games,” said Matsuzaka, who had a 3.04 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings this spring. ”I’m definitely shocked by this decision. I’m disappointed, but I just have to move on.”
New York chose to go with Mejia, who is dealing with inflammation on his right forearm after taking a line drive off the bat of Ryan Goins on Friday night. Mejia will see a doctor in New York to determine the severity of the injury, but was still expected to start in the Mets’ fourth game of the season against Cincinnati on April 4.
Blue Jays: Morrow is looking to rebound from an injury-plagued season in which he went 2-3 in only 54.1 innings, and felt good in his spring finale.
”It was a tuneup start,” he said. ”There were things I’ve been working on up to this point, but I tried to put it all together today.”
In 2012, Morrow was a 10-game winner with a 2.96 ERA, and is now trying to prove he’s healthy.
”I’ve got a bit of a chip on my shoulder as far as that goes,” Morrow said. ”You don’t want to be labelled as somebody (who’s) injury-prone. My goal is to make every start this year. I had a positive spring, so I’m feeling good about it.”
The 1994 Expos believed they were a team on the rise, but a sinking Canadian dollar and an ownership group unwilling to spend forced management to trade away top talents such as Ken Hill, John Wetteland and Marquis Grissom in April 1995 and let Larry Walker go as a free agent to the Colorado Rockies.
Grissom said some veterans would have signed for less than market value just to keep the squad together, but the owners weren’t interested.
”We wanted to make sure that wasn’t an issue, so we took it upon ourselves to try to go upstairs and tell them, `Hey, we’ll take less money to stay together,”’ Grissom said. ”We don’t know how much less that would have been, but the strike took effect and there really wasn’t anything we could do. Even if we took less money, I still don’t think we would have stayed here.”
Walker said there was a good chance the Expos could have gotten to the World Series in 1994, and perhaps that would have changed the future of the franchise in Montreal.
”Good things could have happened from there,” Walker said. ”Revenue comes in, more guys stick around, contracts get offered and people don’t leave town. That’s what probably would have happened and who knows how long the franchise would have stayed here. It could still be here now.”