There were plenty of Jose Bautista jerseys to be seen at Rogers Centre on Monday, when the Washington Nationals arrived to begin a three-game interleague set against the Toronto Blue Jays.
There were also some Ricky Romero jerseys, along with Brett Lawrie shirts. One brave soul was wearing a Frank Thomas No. 35 throwback.
Strangely absent, if an informal survey of the gathering can be trusted, was anybody outfitted in retro Montreal Expos colours.
You’d have though diehard Expos fans would be flocking to pay homage to the old franchise, which morphed into the Nationals after the 2004 season.
This year, for the first time in a long time, they have something to celebrate, with the Nationals posing a stout challenge in the National League East Division.
Toronto starter Brandon Morrow exited the game after just nine pitches with an injury, and the Nationals made short work of the Jays in a decisive 6-3 victory.
The game was played before a somewhat-disappointing gathering of 18,513 given Washington is stocked with some of the game’s most dynamic young talent and appears ready to challenge for a playoff spot.
After coming off a sweep of the Boston Red Sox – the first NL team to sweep a series at Fenway Park in 10 years – the Nationals (36-23) have now won four in a row and have the second best record in the NL.
For the Blue Jays (31-30), they continue to head south, losing for the fourth time in their last five outings, mustering a feeble three hits off Nats starter Edwin Jackson, who pitched into the ninth inning.
And the news was more discouraging after Morrow, who was hoping for his eighth win, couldn’t get out of the first inning and was saddled with the loss.
After issuing a sharp single to right field to Washington leadoff hitter Steve Lombardozzi, hotshot 19-year-old rookie Bryce Harper stepped into the batter’s box to face Morrow.
Falling behind 2-1 in the count, Morrow walked a few paces off the mound and signalled to the dugout all was not well. After conferring with manager John Farrell, Morrow slowly made his way to the Toronto dugout, his night over.
Morrow, who has been Toronto’s most consistent pitcher on the year – winning seven of his previous last nine starts, with a microscopic 0.54 earned-run average in those victories – was diagnosed with a left oblique strain.
His status is listed as day-to-day.
Chad Beck was summoned from the bullpen for emergency duty and when play resumed following his warmups, Harper welcomed him to the game with a run-scoring single to right.
Harper made his way to third after an error at first by David Cooper and would score an unearned run on a sacrifice fly by Michael Morse that put Washington in flight, 2-0.
Colby Rasmus lashed his ninth home run of the season in the bottom of the first, a solo shot that cut the Washington lead in half.
But Adam LaRoche stepped up in the third, stroking his 11th home run of the season off Beck, a two-run shot that moved the Nationals ahead 4-1.
With the Jays down 6-1, Yan Gomes made the score more respectable, with a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the ninth off reliever Sean Burnett.
It was a busy night for Harper, who has stormed onto the scene since getting promoted from Triple-A on April 27 and has not looked out of place in a major-league uniform.
The right-fielder went 3-for-4, with a walk, an RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base.Report Typo/Error